Boss of childcare firm backed by Rishi Sunak’s wife says she’s voting Labour

The boss of a childcare firm backed by Rishi Sunak’s wife and hosted at a Downing St reception has said she is backing Labour after she saw at first hand how Tory infighting and the toppling of prime ministers prevented the introduction of key policies that would benefit parents.

Supporting Sir Keir Starmer in the general election, Rachel Carrell, the CEO and founder of Koru Kids, said the Conservatives “are not serious people” but Labour’s top team would give the UK the stability that is “absolutely essential to business growth and … getting necessary reforms through”.

She also said that she looked forward to “living in a country with competent leadership” after it had lurched from “crisis to crisis, embarrassment to embarrassment” under the Conservatives.

Her verdict will come as a blow to Mr Sunak, who was at the centre of a conflict-of-interest row over his wife’s shareholding in the company last year.

Rishi Sunak was at the centre of a row over the shares his wife Akshata Murty had in childcare agency Koru Kids (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak was at the centre of a row over the shares his wife Akshata Murty had in childcare agency Koru Kids (PA Wire)

The prime minister was forced to apologise for not declaring Akshata Murty’s shares in Koru Kids when he was quizzed by MPs about the government’s childcare policies.

Strict rules say MPs should be “open and frank” about relevant financial interests, including those of family members.

An investigation subsequently found he breached parliament’s code of conduct by failing to declare the shares properly.

In the wake of the controversy, Ms Murty, a multimillionaire businesswoman and investor, donated her shares to charity.

Ms Carrell told The Independent: “I’m backing Labour in this election because I’m looking forward to living in a country with competent leadership. Under the Tories, we’ve lurched from crisis to crisis, embarrassment to embarrassment.”

She said the “ship was steered particularly badly during Covid and its aftermath … As the CEO of Koru Kids, I saw how much parents and children were suffering from the constant U-turns, lack of clarity in guidance, inconsistencies and just bad calls.

Brian Cox’s Logan Roy in ‘Succession’ (HBO)
Brian Cox’s Logan Roy in ‘Succession’ (HBO)

“Then, when Covid receded, we had different PMs in quick succession. I was working with officials trying to get reforms to happen that would have benefited parents and children, but they kept getting scrapped as the PM kept changing. As Logan Roy said in [hit TV show] Succession, ’You are not serious people.’”

In contrast, she said that Mr Starmer and others in his top team, including the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, were “clearly” serious people.

“It’s obvious that they’ll govern in a more thoughtful, considered way, and that this will give the country the stability that is absolutely essential to business growth and performance, and to getting necessary reforms through.”

However, with continued problems in the health service and other issues such as the housing crisis, she warned an incoming Labour government would have a “tough hand to play”.

Regarding her area of childcare, she said if she were in charge she would “bring back Sure Start, fix SEN [special educational needs] provision which is atrocious, support childminders, and allow subsidies to be spent on flexible childcare”.

As a parent herself, she said she would be looking for “something on the topic of delaying children’s access to smartphones and social media, a topic currently igniting passions in our school playground”.

Bridget Phillipson, shadow education secretary, said: “Even companies in which the prime minister’s family have had a stake can see that the Conservatives have failed and that the country is crying out for change.

“Labour will reform our early years sector and bring the stability that families so badly need and ensure childcare is accessible and available while boosting life chances for children.”