Lib Dems sued by ex-candidate ousted ‘because he is a Christian’

Former award-winning BBC journalist David Campanale is suing the Liberal Democrats for allegedly deselecting him because he is a practising Christian.

The revelation comes after The Independent disclosed that a petition demanding he is reinstated as the candidate for Sutton and Cheam in south London had been backed by the bishop of Winchester Philip Mounstephen who warned that Liberal greats like William Gladstone would no longer be welcome in the party.

Since then the GoCitizen petition has been supported by 20,000 people and the bishop of Guildford Andrew Watson has added his support.

In a further move today, court papers have been filed against the Lib Dems for discrimination and victimisation against Mr Campanale.

Ed Davey’s party is being sued (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)
Ed Davey’s party is being sued (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

It is the first time that a political party in the UK has faced legal action for discrimination because of someone’s Christian faith and comes despite assurances previously given by leader Sir Ed Davey that he would tackle “illiberal” groups who wanted to push people with a traditional Christian view out of the party.

Mr Campanale’s case is being supported by a document regarding Labour MP Rob Flello who defected to the Lib Dems but was deselected as the candidate of Stoke South because of his Christian views. The claim is that the messages reveal an unofficial policy of discriminating against people with traditional Christian values on ethical issues such as abortion or euthanasia.

The papers were filed even though an appeal against his deselection as a prospective candidate is ongoing because otherwise they would be out of time. The party has selected another candidate, Luke Taylor, to represent them at the general election in the target seat of Sutton and Cheam.

The legal submission claims that Taylor, a local councillor who came third to Campanale in the original selection, was one of the prime movers in forcing his deselection and made a number of complaints against him.

It is alleged that Taylor told the committed Anglican that he “did not have any right to a conscience based on his Christian faith on any subject of policy”.

Mr Taylor is also allegedly said to have claimed that “the party of past prominent Liberal Democrats with Christian beliefs, such as Shirley Williams and Charles Kennedy, was ‘over’, and that he and others were building a ‘secular party’ which would have no place for Christians expecting to “hold to their religious or conscientious opinions”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also received complaints about Mr Campanale’s treatment.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “The Liberal Democrat leader and all of our London MPs are churchgoing Christians, and this complex case about David Campanale which began during Covid, resulted in him being deselected and the local party overwhelmingly voting for a new candidate.”