A disabled activist set to fight next month’s by-election in Corby has become the first candidate to be backed by a new political movement that wants to see non-career politicians elected to parliament.
Adam Lotun has become a leading figure in the disabled people’s anti-cuts movement and has been prominent in several direct action protests as a member of the grassroots campaigning organisation Disabled People Against Cuts.
He was asked by fellow disabled activists to stand in the Corby by-election on 15 November, and has secured more than £2,000 in donations to his campaign from across the UK in two weeks.
He is also receiving financial support from the government’s new access to elected office fund – to rent an electric wheelchair, and meet the costs of accessible taxis and personal assistants – which helps disabled people with the extra disability-related costs they face while campaigning.
Following his decision to fight the by-election, Lotun was persuaded to stand as the first candidate of the Democracy 2015 political movement, launched only last month by Andreas Whittam Smith, the founding editor of The Independent newspaper.
Democracy 2015 aims to encourage people from outside the political classes to stand for parliament, but for just one full term, so treating their position as a public service rather than a career.
The Corby seat was left vacant after the resignation of Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who won her seat in 2010 with a majority of less than 2,000 over Labour.
Lotun, who worked in the NHS and the IT industry before he became disabled, and later worked as a disability employment adviser in jobcentres, said he felt “immensely privileged” to be Democracy 2015’s first candidate.
He said: “All Democracy 2015 candidates will only be there for one term so you don’t end up with people who can be corrupted and people who see politics as a career.”
But despite the heavy odds against him as an independent candidate with no close links to Corby, he said he was “expecting to win”, and added: “Labour are going to be frightened of me.”
He pledges to stay in cheap bed and breakfasts in Corby if he is elected, rather than buying or renting a property in the constituency, and to use public transport wherever possible.
He said: “If I have to use a bus, I will use a bus. If they are not accessible they will be accessible pretty damn quick. If not, they will be facing legal challenges from me.”
Lotun will be campaigning for a fairer welfare system, against cuts to disability benefits, for the legalisation of cannabis use for medicinal purposes, and to scrap the government’s “fitness for work” assessment and remove Atos’s contract to carry out the controversial tests.
He has also secured backing from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which was set up to enable trade union members, community campaigners and socialists to fight elections on an anti-austerity platform.
Whittam Smith said Democracy 2015 decided to back Lotun because he “exactly reflects our values, for he believes that there needs to be a change in the way of thinking of MPs, their work in their constituencies and also their work in parliament”.
He added: “British democracy is in crisis. The cause is a precipitous decline in respect for members of parliament and for the governments they form.”
11 October 2012