It’s not often you get a Welsh businessman getting involved in political leadership contests, but that is exactly what Rod Lloyd, the owner of Low Cost Vans did when he actively supported Keir Starmer’s successful Labour leadership campaign. Lisa Baker, Editor of News from Wales, spoke to the outspoken entrepreneur to find out what motivated him to back the new leader of the opposition.
There are few who can doubt Rod Lloyd’s credentials as a successful entrepreneur. The Neath-boy made good has created two successful multi-million pound businesses; property portfolio company Crownhawk Properties and Low Cost Vans, one of the UK’s leading commercial vehicle leasing companies which has also recently expanded into electric vehicles.
Forthright, honest, and straightforward, Lloyd has never lost touch with his roots and is still keen to stress he is from Neath – not Swansea or Cardiff!
But what was it that aroused a Neath businessman’s interest in a Labour barrister who grew up in Surrey and is currently the MP for Holborn and St Pancras? I was intrigued to learn more.
Lloyd explains that he backed the Labour leader’s campaign based on an understanding an appreciation of Starmer’s personal beliefs and ethics.
“Growing up in Neath, I learned the value of socialism; I have always believed in a society where nobody feels downtrodden,” Lloyd says.
“I don’t think that needs to be linked to a political party, I’m not a member of any of them. But I believe we need to invest in hospitals and education to take care of people and to make sure that everyone enjoys a good standard of life.”
He adds that he has made several political friendships and connections through his life and business. He says he has always supported those with similar values to his own – and that was how he first met Starmer.
“Whenever I’ve been approached for support on a cause I believe in, I have got behind it,” he says. “Carolyn Harris, (MP for Swansea East), for example, she launched two campaigns last year, one for Holiday hunger, to help feed Welsh children in the school holidays and also the Christmas Hamper Campaign, to ensure everyone gets a Christmas they deserve. Of course, both were a cause I wanted to support.
“Keir Starmer travelled all the way up from London to support her campaign, and Carolyn introduced us. I was pleased that the then Deputy Labour leader made the effort to support this important local cause, but I was also impressed by his demeanour, his ethos, his values and his story.
“I have met many politicians and I left the meeting with Keir feeling I had met with a statesman, and finally confident we had a leader worthy of office.”
Lloyd says that when Starmer was named a candidate in the leadership election, he was happy to second a member of his team to support his campaign.
“And of course, I’m pleased he succeeded. He is a politician who understands what the country including Wales and the other devolved nations need and has the personal attributes to lead the country.”
So how does Lloyd believe Wales will benefit from Keir Starmer’s leadership, and possible future Premiership?
Lloyd says: “Keir has seen the challenges we face in Wales and if he is elected, I believe it will be nothing but positive for Wales,” he says.
But he also advocates further change closer to home. He has previously aroused debate with his views on the quality of some politicians in the Welsh Assembly and, especially given his position as a leader in commercial transport, feels Wales has been let down badly by the decision to scrap the M4 relief road. He explains:
“Of course we need to protect the environment and I understand that – my frustration is that there was no Plan B. In business, I have always had a back-up plan, because that is what leaders do.
“But it is frustrating when executives from some of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers refuse to come to Wales because of our poor transport links. It impacts on businesses and the only area of transport investment seems to be in Cardiff Capital Region – but Wales does not end at junction 33 of the M4.”
And he adds that the issue is a wider one than just the bottleneck that is now the M4.
“We need to look at our whole transport network – otherwise South Wales businesses will continue to struggle to gain significant contracts on the other side of the Severn Bridge, and North Wales businesses will continue to feel excluded altogether,” he says.
It was genuinely lovely to meet Rod, and you get the feeling that he is a strong businessman. He is not afraid to speak his mind and will use his position to champion what he believes is best for Wales. With or without Keir Starmer in office, Rod Lloyd is a force to be reckoned with – and that can only be good for business in Wales