Rob Flello has been deselected as an election candidate for the Liberal Democrats just 36 hours after his candidacy was announced, after the party reportedly learnt of his views on abortion and same-sex ‘marriage’.
The former MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, who is a practising Catholic, previously held the seat for Labour for 12 years before losing his seat to the Conservative Party in the 2017 General Election.
In September, Mr Flello joined the Liberal Democrats, stating that Labour had become a party he could “no longer recognise”.
However, the Liberal Democrats deselected him as an election candidate on Tuesday, just 36 hours after his selection, saying that it was due to “how greatly his values diverge from ours”, reportedly due his previous voting record on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Pro-life and pro-marriage positions
During his time as a Labour MP, Mr Flello voted to give women considering abortion a legal right to independent counselling from a source that has no financial interest in her decision. He also supported an amendment to ban sex-selective abortion. During his time in Parliament, he voted against assisted suicide and a bill that would have introduced abortion for any reason up to birth.
According to Right to Life, the vast majority of women in the UK agree with Mr Flello on his positions on abortion.
330 MPs also joined Mr Flello in opposing the assisted suicide bill, many of whom were Liberal Democrats. That bill was voted down at its second reading.
Back in 2013, Mr Flello also voted against allowing couples of the same sex to marry. At its third reading, he was one of 14 Labour MPs to vote against the bill.
Deselected for expressing his beliefs
At the Lib Dem launch on Thursday for their plans for equality and human rights, Baroness Sal Brinton, President of the Liberal Democrats commented on their position, stating that they didn’t deselect Mr Flello for his views but rather for how he expressed them: “I think the difficulty that our candidates team hadn’t picked up was his language and retweeting on social media, which went beyond the sort of dialogue that you would expect from a liberal.”
She also added that the Liberal Democrats expected tolerance from their candidates for “the other side”, making their support for the pro-choice and LGBT movements very clear:
“We absolutely understand and respect the right of every Christian to have their views, but many Christians follow slightly different pathways, slightly different interpretations. As a Liberal Democrat, we expect tolerance and understanding of the other side and unfortunately some of the things that Rob had retweeted went beyond that and would absolutely not be seen as something that Liberals should do.”
‘Concern’ for freedom of conscience
In a statement on his website, Mr Flello said, “I feel utterly misled by the Lib Dem Party who claim in their constitution to acknowledge and respect the right to freedom of conscience.
“Not only do I feel betrayed by the false promises of the Lib Dems but I am profoundly concerned that people of faith who adhere to their religious beliefs are not welcome in their Party.”
Speaking to Premier, he stated, “In my view, this is just blatant discrimination on the grounds of my religious beliefs and deeply, deeply troubling as to what the implications are for Christians across the UK who will be making a decision in 29 days’ time about who they vote for … quite clearly there is a problem with practicing Christians and, it will appear, the Liberal Democrat Party.
“I have been a member of parliament for 12 years, I have well known, a well-documented view on issues such as abortion, pro-life issues, same-sex marriage – issues that I feel very passionately about and really go to the heart of who I am as a Christian, first and foremost, and then, secondly, as an MP.”
No room for differing beliefs
The news follows the deselection of former Labour MP Roger Godsiff, just last week, who was dropped by the Labour Party after he supported the rights of parents to protest new Relationships and Sex Education.
Similarly, the Liberal Democrats this week banned a ‘gender-critical’ woman, who believes humans cannot biologically change sex, from joining the party because it did not fit with their ‘views on diversity’.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron previously stated that he felt being leader of the Lib Dems and living “as a committed Christian … felt impossible” to him. He added, “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant society.”
Mainstream religious views being squeezed out of politics
Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy for Christian Concern commented:
“Labour are intolerant of someone who stands up for parents’ rights. Now the Liberal Democrats are intolerant of someone who stands up for real marriage and pre-born children. Mainstream political parties are becoming increasingly intolerant of Christians and those who will stand up for Christian morality in society. There is now no room for freedom of conscience on issues that, until recently, were widely recognised as conscience issues. Is it any wonder that there have been so few MPs speaking out on these issues when the mainstream parties are screening them out of the selection process?
“Where can Christians go to vote for someone who will stand up for Christian morality? Christians will want to vote for morals over money. If the mainstream parties want votes from Christians, they will need to demonstrate their willingness to respect freedom of conscience and allow Christians to stand in elections.”