Long-term Tory donor Sir Andrew Cook 'washes his hands' of Conservative Party and hits out at Brexit impact

A long-standing Tory donor says he has “washed his hands” of the party following the leadership failings of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss - and has hit out at the negative impact of Brexit on his Yorkshire steel business.

Sir Andrew Cook, owner and chairman of William Cook Holdings, has previously made cash donations of more than £230,000 to the party between 2007 and 2017. He also made a non-cash donation worth £2,700 in October 2018.

But he said he considers the party to be in a catastrophic state and believes Labour will convincingly win the next election.

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Sir Andrew, who funded the Remain-baking ‘Conservatives IN’ campaign and received his knighthood in David Cameron’s Resignation Honours List in 2016, said he believes the party’s current problems can be traced back to the referendum.

Sir Andrew Cook has hit out at the Tory party. Picture: Scott MerryleesSir Andrew Cook has hit out at the Tory party. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Sir Andrew Cook has hit out at the Tory party. Picture: Scott Merrylees

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I think this has been looming ever since the Brexit vote which I opposed. The opportunistic chancer Johnson was a disaster and he managed to con a very large number of the British people because he was what they call in America an ‘aw, shucks’ type who gets forgiven for all their sins. That has made things 10 times worse.

“Sunak - good luck to him frankly. He seems to be a sensible chap. I think it is too little, too late. If Sunak had taken over from Cameron, I might have had a different opinion but I have washed my hands of them.”

In October, Sir Andrew wrote to the New Statesman magazine criticising the Tory party’s 1922 Committee of MPs for allowing a process that resulted in the election of Liz Truss and described her brief time in office as a “disaster”.

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He said today: “I was intensely critical of the elder brethren of the Conservative Party ever allowing that election to get as far as it did. Utter, utter madness. It was madness.”

He said he has little enthusiasm for Labour although he thinks they “probably will get into power” under Keir Starmer. “Poor quality Government will continue, it won’t get any better. I think the country is in a great deal of difficulty. They [Labour] will survive for some time as well because the Conservative Party can’t recover overnight from this mess it has got itself into.”

Sir Andrew said his firm, a Sheffield-based steel castings company that also has rail and defence divisions, has been hit by Brexit - both in terms of logistical issues and relationships with customers.

“It has had a negative impact. Trade was my primary justification for wanting to stay in. The single market has been very useful - a great deal of our trade is with continental Europe. Apart from the Japanese, all our train builders are in continental Europe. We have to send stuff across the border all the time.

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“You loaded up in lorries in Leeds and you could drive it like a passenger car to Spain or Hungary with no difficulty. It has created some difficulty but it has also created a mindset among our continental customers. They think, ‘Britain’s moved away, let’s find somebody else’.

“It has certainly had no positive benefits at all - none. One works to mitigate the negatives. People trade with us only if they need to.”

The Conservative Party did not wish to comment.