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Faith in Practice

Man of Standing

In 2005, the BBC announced that Stephen Lloyd was to become MP of Eastbourne. Then someone found another box of votes. 2010 will be his third attempt at entering Parliament to represent the Liberal Democrats.


At the height of the expenses thing, when it was really venal, veering from ludicrous stuff like duck-houses and moats to pensions, I was wondering whether I really wanted to get into this game. After all, if you did that in business you'd get fired. I was pretty depressed about it, but then I thought, if you're going to change something, you have to do it from within.

In 2005 on election night I was told I had won, based on the box count. I had a call from my agent, I heard a cheer from the next room, and on the BBC news feed it said 'Lib Dems set to win Eastbourne'. I got in the car to be driven down to the count and for 15 minutes I thought I had won, I thought I was an MP. When I walked in my agent said to me, 'They've found another box.' I told my partner Cherine, 'For God's sake, keep smiling' and sure enough, the vote was announced for the Conservatives.

Politics is a brutal business, there's no other situation apart from war where things are so confrontational. And so you develop a thick skin. This is the third time I'm running as a PPC for the Liberal Democrats, and this is the second time for Eastbourne. I believe in what I stand for and what the party stands for.

In my youth I was involved in anti-apartheid politics and Amnesty. I grew up in Kenya, and from the age of 8 I went back and forward from home to school in England, which was a bizarre upbringing but the way it was then. Coming from Africa I knew the way white people treated black people, challenging that sense of unfairness was always important to me.

As a young man I was part of Labour, mainly because if you were progressive in the 1970s it seemed the only game in town. In the early 1980s I left and joined the SDP. At that time I stepped out of active involvement in politics and moved into business. For a while I ran my own , then sold it and moved into the charity sector, mainly around disability and diversity. I have personal experience of disability, being hard of hearing most of my life. I always knew if I was in a position to give something back, I wanted to do so.

Over ten years ago I came back late one night from work to watch Newsnight. They were shouting at each other, as they generally do, and I remember getting exasperated at them; if I'd had a brick I would have thrown it at the television. The thought entered my mind: 'What are you going to do? Are you going to get involved or throw a brick?'

I don't think democracy is perfect in any way, but the great thing is that even when it's pretty rocky it is the only show in town. The alternatives are always so bleak. You stand outside and moan, or you can roll your sleeves up and get involved. I made the decision to get back into politics to do just that.

I was tremendously moved by Obama winning. He's had a good couple of weeks, but a difficult year. Nevertheless for someone with that background, an African American, in the United States, with a positive vision, it gave me - and I'm sure many others around the world - a lift.

The constant leafletting is challenging. From this weekend onward it's every week; I'm driving people mad, but I've got to win. Liberals win bottom up, they win from the community, they win from grassroots campaigning, they win on hard work. I was apprehensive that after knocking on 10,000 doors my core optimistic belief about human nature would be dented. I have met many people who are anxious, many people who are angry about politicians, their neighbours, life in general, but overall by a huge huge majority the bulk of people I've met are good, warm folk.

You can't hold down a full time job and run for parliament in a target seat. I work part time as a Business Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, but I have had to remortgage my house and cash in my pension because I absolutely believe in what I'm doing.

I was brought up a Catholic, but I am now fiercely non-denominational. For a while I was, to be honest, an atheist and comfortable with that. But to coin a phrase: God works in mysterious ways. I had a profound awakening in the God of my understanding. My faith is tremendously private but extremely important to me. I believe in God, but religion I don't feel so comfortable with.

I believe that God has a plan, which is always revealed in the long term. I was incandescent after 2005; talk about shaking your fist! But God is strong enough to take my anger. Over time I've realised that when these things happen you have to pick yourself up and keep going. I believe in God and his capacity for love and protection. But within that I am a frail human being. Ultimately we're on a journey towards perfection.

I genuinely want to be an MP because I believe I can make a difference within this constituency. Part of my daily prayer is asking God to remove the fear I have about the election. He has done that. Not to say I'm cocky, I'm just confident in his plan for me. From now until the polls close, me and my team will be working flat out. By then I will have done my bit. The rest is truly in the electorate's and in God's hands.

Stephen Lloyd was talking to Hannah Kowszun