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Tory Disability Activist Says He’s Likely To Join Labour Party

Graeme Ellis, who has been wooed by Labour MPs since he quit the Conservative party this week, told BuzzFeed News he is "99.9%" certain he will switch sides.

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He's nearly on board too; Ellis told BuzzFeed News he's "99.9%" certain he'll join Labour.

Cat Smith, the shadow minister for wealth and equalities, told BuzzFeed News she's currently "in conversation" with Ellis and said he would be a positive influence in the Labour party.

"He has my mobile number, we are texting, and we are having an ongoing conversation," Smith said. "I hope very much that he will consider joining the only party who can challenge the Tories on the decision they're making. The budget hammered disabled people to then only reduce taxes for the rich.

"That doesn't sit well for Graeme. I can see why. If he wants to see that challenged, we'd be happy to have him."

Ellis, according to Smith, is a high-profile and outspoken activist in Lancashire. Besides the nice words, she also told people to follow him on Twitter.

I don't normally do Follow Friday but #ff @here2supportall Graeme Ellis who has stood up for all disabled people in a big way this week

Ellis, 56, told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that he'd been voting for the Conservatives since he was 18 but had quit after decisions taken by the chancellor in this week's Budget.

In the Budget, George Osborne announced that there would be huge cuts to the personal independence payment (PIP), resulting in an annual cut of £1.2 million to disabled people. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said on Thursday that this policy would lead to 370,000 disabled people losing an average of £3,500 a year each.

In the same budget, Osborne announced tax breaks for the most wealthy: The threshold until you have to pay the higher tax rate was increased, and corporation tax went down.

Clive Lewis, the shadow energy minister, also wants Ellis to join the party.

"He's finally seen the Tory party for what it is," Lewis told BuzzFeed News.

"The Labour party is the only party that's offering a real economic alternative. People with disabilities have fared terribly under the Conservative government. He can see that, he's an intelligent person. He should join us and help us fight for a fairer, better society.

"So we'd welcome him with open arms. the Labour party is nothing if we're not a social movement."

Ellis said he was almost convinced.

The disability campaigner said he didn't want to make his membership of the party a big public event but wanted Labour to make a commitment to disabled people.

"I feel that because still at the moment i'm still a little newsworthy, I could do a very public joining of the Labour party with the Labour party at that time reaffirming a commitment to disability," Ellis said.

The campaigner told BuzzFeed News that he was optimistic about the Labour party because unlike the Conservatives, it had published a manifesto with specific pledges for the UK's disabled community.

But he said colleagues have told him that some part of the party's communications is "ineffectual", and he's already setting up an alternative site to give people the chance to talk about the government's policy towards disabled people.

And what about the Conservative Disability Group's website? Well, he's happy to give the party the domain name – but only once they give him the £7 he paid for it.

"It's a good way to keep up my message a little longer," he said.

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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