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Lib Dem candidate ‘deselected because of his Catholicism’ to sue party

(Getty)

Rob Flello called the party an 'intolerant' place 'where Catholics are not welcome'

A former Liberal Democrat candidate is suing his party for religious discrimination, accusing it of deselecting him for his Catholic views.

Rob Flello, who was Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South before losing his seat in the 2017 General Election, was selected to stand for the Lib Dems in his former constituency on November 9.

But just days later party officials told him it was “not appropriate” for him to represent them because his views on abortion and same-sex marriage were “not those that would be expected of a liberal”.

Mr Flello is now suing the party, describing it as an “intolerant” place “where Catholics are not welcome.” He told the Daily Telegraph: “I think what it comes down to is that someone senior within the Lib Dems does not like practising Catholics.

“It seems that you can be a Christian as long as you are a compliant Christian who goes along with what they say. But if you in anyway want to defend the faith, then that’s it. Your card is marked and out you go.”

Mr Flello said he was suing the party to “defend both democracy and the right of people to hold a religious view”.

A Lib Dem spokesman said Flello was deselected due to his “activities on social media” including “tweeting or re-tweeting items that were well beyond the values of the party.”

“We believe that our candidates should be held to a higher standard of behaviour than our members, reflect our values and policies, and not bring the party into disrepute,” the spokesman said. “By directly associating himself with comments and causes Mr Flello put himself outside the standards we would expect for a Liberal Democrat candidate.”

Mr Flello was an atheist before converting to Catholicism at the age of 41. His solicitor, Paul Conrathe, said: “I believe this is the first time a political party will be sued over religious discrimination. Rob Flello, a respected politician, was deselected by the Liberal Democrats for being a Catholic.

“The party deemed his religious views were not ‘in tune with what would be expected of a liberal’. This is a blatant breach of the Equality Act. It would appear that people with sincerely held religious beliefs are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats.”