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Complaints made to EHRC about Lib Dems deselecting Christian candidate

Religious Liberty
14 May 2024
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A would-be Parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems was deselected following a campaign from local activists to oust him for his Christian beliefs, in a move which some have claimed falls foul of the equality law.

David Campanale, 60, had been due to contest the seat of Sutton and Cheam in London, having formerly been a director of Tearfund.

Activists suggested that Mr Campanale had not been fully transparent about his faith during the selection process, which he denies, and pointed to him previously being involved in the Christian People’s Alliance, which he left in 2012.

In a new move, party members have now written to the EHRC, saying, “This evidence depicts a supposedly liberal organisation allowing clear religious discrimination and hostility to thrive within its ranks. It suggests that Mr Campanale was driven out from his democratically elected position not because of any objective failings or wrongdoing but because a vocal group within SBLD [Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats] refused to tolerate his Christian worldview.

“Although Mr Campanale has submitted evidence of religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation perpetrated against him to party authorities at all levels over a two-year period, no appropriate action has been taken. We believe that only an external investigation by the EHRC can now secure justice.”

Mr Campanale first campaigned for the Lib Dems as a student, and rejoined them in 2019, standing as a candidate against Kwasi Kwarteng in the constituency of Spelthorne and tripling their vote. Having been selected in 2021 to stand in Sutton and Cheam, he was targeted within weeks, being told at one meeting: “We had no idea we were selecting another Tim Farron.”

The decision by local party members to deselect him was eventually taken at an extraordinary general meeting in November 2022.

Lord Alton, a former Lib Dem MP, has commented: “It smacks of the same prejudiced intolerance that increasingly disrespects conscience and has infected too much of politics and our national life…Faith was the bedrock of many of the old Liberal Party’s founders and luminaries.”

He also said that the former Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone would “surely turn in his grave in seeing how David Campanale has been hounded out of politics”.

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