He’s the self-confessed “nasty piece of work” who wants to be your next MP.
Richard Taylor’s supporters say his transformation from career criminal to pastor makes him the perfect material to be MP.
The man himself says that dissatisfied Labour voters in the leave-voting constituency are turning to him, and he’s “quietly optimistic” that he will be elected as MP after Thursday’s General Election.
Taylor was 15 when he was sent to the Young Offenders Institute at HMP Swansea.
Within days of his time in prison beginning, he says he became a drug and cigarette trader and was a heavy user, saying in a book he wrote: “I never had a single night without drugs.
“My latest arrest had been for the usual list of crimes. I had been convicted of 30 offences for drug abuse, drunkenness, theft, burglary, stealing cars and violence.
“This had become my way of life from the age of 13.
His book To Catch a Thief, is billed as his journey “from career criminal to a life of hope”.
In it, he writes: “I had dozens of offences behind me.
“I was well known to the police and the court officials in my hometown of Llanelli.”
When the police tracked him down he was as “foul-mouthed, abusive and as violent as I could possibly be”.
He declared himself “one of the worst” hooligans on the the Bryn.
Richard describes how, age 15, he starting hanging out with a group of older men who called themselves The Town Boys. They were “dedicated to terrorising the town”. “We were really evil. We enticed lots of youngsters into drugs, destroying their lives. We were violent and ruthless.”
His drug habit was £150-a-week and he was stealing to make the money to meet it. He originally stole to order and graduated to burglaries, when he needed money quickly he would take a train to Carmarthen or Swansea and “clear a whole shelf of meat into my sports bag”.
By 17, he had turned to injecting heroin but soon encountered religion for the first proper time.
He recounts going in to a service while drunk and mocking the whole thing, but when invited he went to the front of the church and knelt in front of a man who said he’d pray for him.
“What happened next was the strangest thing that had ever happened to me – I was instantly stone cold sober… this was the first time I had encountered anything that I would call spiritual power”.
Richard had turned 18 and was on a “cocktail of tablets, smoking ganja and drinking”. His latest burglary, which landed him six months in prison, was his most serious and saw him walk into the home belonging to a family where the young daughter confronted him.
During this sentence, he began to attend the prison chapel and began reading the Bible in his cell.
In his book he recounts converting to Christianity. He said had an “incredible spiritual experience”.
“My first miracle came sooner than I expected,” he wrote, and it was that he got clean of drugs.
“Both mentally and physically I was free,” he said.
“With the same vigour that I had pursued drugs, I now read and studied the ible. I read for hours at a time. Sometimes I had to be called for meals because I was in my room reading, oblivious to time.
“I just wanted to talk to God and read.”
That, where his book ends, is 18 year-old Richard.
The judge allowed him to spend his two year probation at Victory Outreach, and he began preaching at local churches.
In 2009, he spoke to WalesOnline and said that it was going to the rehab centre that changed his life.
“Someone from Victory Outreach UK, which is a Christian drug rehabilitation centre, asked if I wanted to go live with them and I thought, ‘Why not’?
“So I went to crown court, never thinking it would fly with the judge but, unbelievably, he gave me bail and off I went to Abertillery to this big place called the Bush Hotel.
“There must have been about 20 lads living there, all ex-druggies, all telling me how God had changed their lives.
“It was all a bit happy-clappy and I remember thinking, “Blimmin’ heck, I thought I was the one on drugs’!”
“But that night I had what I can only describe as incredible supernatural experience.
“I just feel to my knees and broke down, weeping uncontrollably – it was the first time I’d cried since my dad left us as kids – and when I got up I was completely and utterly free from addiction, no cold turkey, no craving, nothing.
“It was a miracle really,” said Richard.
Since then he’s preached to thousands, counselled addicts, holding their hands through those long, dark hours of withdrawal, also hosting his own BBC TV show called To Catch A Thief which gave homeowners tips on how to secure their home properly.
“Six million viewers we had, and there were even cardboard cutouts of me in B&Q home section. Me, the former junkie scumbag from Llanelli!”
“Now, as the director of Victory Outreach, I’ve come full circle.
“This is where the old Richard Taylor fell and the new me – the real me – rose up, so it means everything to be here.”
Fast forward to the latest chapter of his life and in 2019 Mr Taylor says neither he nor his wife are no longer involved in the church.
“We stepped away from the church a few years ago,” he says.
Now his attention is focused elsewhere, on trying to become the MP for Blaenau Gwent.
The General Election is on December 12, and while Welsh experts say it is unlikely the party will take a seat , Mr Taylor says he is “quietly optimistic”.
“I was a Labour voter all my life. My famliy were from Llanelli and Labour through and through.
“I just saw how the party was changing and I felt I needed to get out of it.”
He says he specifically means Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and that he says “I didn’t leave the Labour party, it left me”.
Mr Taylor said he was then invited to a Brexit Party rally in Merthyr Tydfil where he heard Nigel Farage speak.
“I listened to him very carefully and given the result of the referendum, I just felt like the man spoke to me.
“I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he spoke sense to me”.
He said he has lived in Blaenau Gwent for 25 years and says that he’s seen the shops shutting in the town centre and deprivation.
“I was just frustrated and I didn’t realise that politics had such a big part in so many of these things”.
Mr Taylor voted to leave in the referendum but says he has been able to bring local items to the agenda of the Brexit Party and help shape their “contract to the people” – policy document.
“I care about Blaenau Gwent, I’m not a career politician. I am not interested in power or money, I’ve had both of those before but it doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said.
Asked how he views his chances in the election, Mr Taylor said: “Without being biased, I can tell you 100%, very few people, even lifelong Labour supporters have said to me, ‘Rich, you have our vote’.
“It’s for a whole range of reasons but Corbyn is the main reason.
“I am quietly optimistic, I don’t like to set expectations too high but I believe that if people want me to represent them, then I have got a chance.
“I can’t tell them what to do, I am just giving them myself.”
He said many of the doors he knocks are people who have heard his story before. “It’s a positive story,” he says.
The other candidates in the Blaenau Gwent constituency
- Chelsea-Marie Annett – Lib Dem
- Laura Jones – Conservatives
- Peredur Owen Griffiths – Plaid Cymru
- Stephen James Priestnall – Green Party
- Nick Smith – Labour
Find out more about them here
How Blaenau Gwent voted in 2017