Lucy Powell, who has been named vice chair of Labour's election campaign, speaks in parliament. Photograph: BBC.
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Miliband promotes key allies Lucy Powell and Jon Trickett in Labour reshuffle

Powell is named vice chair of the election campaign with left-winger Trickett made a senior adviser. 

With just six months remaining until the general election, Ed Miliband has brought some of his most loyal allies to the centre. That is the key theme of tonight's Labour shadow cabinet reshuffle.

Lucy Powell, who managed Miliband's leadership campaign and later served as his deputy chief of staff, has been promoted from shadow childcare minister to shadow cabinet office minister (joining the shadow cabinet as a full member) and has also been named vice chair of the general election campaign (operations).

As well as giving greater prominence to one of the most talented and impressive young MPs (she entered parliament after the Manchester Central by-election in November 2012), the move addresses complaints about the lack of women involved in the election team and puts Miliband just one move away from his target of a gender-balanced shadow cabinet (of those attending, 17 are men and 15 are women). I tipped her for promotion back in July.

With Powell taking on responsibility for election operations, the appointment has been seen by some in the party as a snub to campaign chair Douglas Alexander, who retains control of strategy. One MP told me: "Douglas is the loser from this reshuffle." 

The other most significant move is the appointment of shadow minister without portfolio and deputy chair Jon Trickett as a senior adviser in the leader's office. Expect Trickett, a proud socialist and the voice of the left in the shadow cabinet, to focus on ensuring Miliband doesn't lose his radical edge.

Like Powell, the working class Hemsworth MP played a key role in Miliband's leadership campaign, providing the psephological analysis (the "five million votes" lost between 1997 and 2010) that convinced him to break with New Labour. Indeed, long before that, in 2005, Trickett, who studied under Ralph Miliband at Leeds University, told Miliband that he should he think of himself as a future leader. 

In a recent piece for The Staggers, he wrote:

You only need to see the failure of the international banking system, or the dismal record of the British housing market, or to look to the American health system to see how private provision of social goods can fail. And yet you could be mistaken in believing that they are incontestable truths.

So deeply entrenched are these ideas that it is easier to imagine the end of our planet (or at least the end of humanity as a result of some disaster) than it is to imagine that we human beings can build a different kind of country with a different set of values.

But that has to be our task. And it may not be as hard to achieve as we imagine.

Because most people know that the present system is bust. There is a spirit of dissent in the country. It is the common sense of our times that Britain is not working properly for the millions, though it works well for the millionaires.

There is a cynicism about the media who perpetually fail to report the truth as most people experience it. And there is contempt for a Westminster government which is seen as remote and failing to address the fact that so many are feeling increasingly hard up.

In other changes, Mary Creagh has replaced Jim Murphy (who resigned from the shadow cabinet on Sunday in order to focus on his Scottish leadership campaign) as shadow international development secretary with Michael Dugher replacing her as shadow transport secretary. In addition, Anas Sarwar, who stood down as Scottish Labour deputy leader last week, has been named shadow international development minister with Alison McGovern, who previously held the role, taking Powell's place as shadow minister for children and families. 

Here's the new shadow cabinet in full. 


Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party
Ed Miliband MP

Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Party Chair and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Harriet Harman MP

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls MP

Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chair of General Election Campaign (Strategy)
Douglas Alexander MP

Shadow Home Secretary
Yvette Cooper MP

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Minister for London
Sadiq Khan MP

Opposition Chief Whip
Rosie Winterton MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Chuka Umunna MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 
Rachel Reeves MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Education 
Tristram Hunt MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Vernon Coaker MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Hilary Benn MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Caroline Flint MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and Chair of the National Policy Forum
Angela Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Michael Dugher MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Ivan Lewis MP

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Mary Creagh MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Margaret Curran MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales 
Owen Smith MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Maria Eagle MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Lucy Powell MP 

Shadow Minister without Portfolio and Deputy Party Chair
Jon Trickett MP

Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
Gloria De Piero MP

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Chris Leslie MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Lords Chief Whip 
Lord Bassam of Brighton

Also attending Shadow Cabinet:

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People
Liz Kendall MP

Shadow Minister for Housing
Emma Reynolds

Shadow Attorney General
Emily Thornberry MP

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
Lord Wood of Anfield

Coordinator of the Labour Party Policy Review
Jon Cruddas MP

In addition:

Lucy Powell becomes Vice Chair of the General Election Campaign (Operations)

 

Alison McGovern becomes Shadow Minister for Children and Families

 

Anas Sarwar becomes Shadow Minister for International Development

 

Jon Trickett will also be part of the Leader’s Office as a senior adviser

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Is Google Maps discriminating against people with disabilities?

Its walking routes are not access-friendly.

“I ended up having to be pushed through a main road in London, which was really scary.” Three weeks ago, Mary Bradley went to London to visit her daughter Belinda, who is just finishing her first year at university there. Her other daughter joined them on the trip.

But what was supposed to be an enjoyable weekend with her two children turned into a frustrating ordeal. The apps they were using to find their way around kept sending them on routes that are not wheelchair-friendly, leading to time-consuming and sometimes frightening consequences.

Bradley has been using a wheelchair – when having to go longer distances without a vehicle – for over a year, due to a 45-degree curve in her spine, severe joint facet deterioration in her back, and other conditions.

She lives in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, and has made the trip up to London to visit her daughter a handful of times. Each visit, they use Google Maps and the transport app Citymapper to find their way around, as neither of them know London particularly well.


Belinda and Mary Bradley. Photo: Belinda Bradley

“It was just horrible,” says Bradley of her most recent trip to the capital. “We’re following the maps, and we go along, then find we are faced with a footbridge, and realise there was no way I was going to get over it, so we had to go back the way we’d come. At one point, we were faced with a strip of narrow pavement the wheelchair couldn’t go down. That was something we found all weekend.”

While Google Maps did highlight accessible Tube stations, they found that once they had alighted to do the rest of the journey to their destination on foot, “it took us three times as long, because the route that it takes us just wasn’t passable”.

They ended up having to try different routes “having no real idea of where were going”.

“It meant that it took so much longer, the girls ended up having to push me for longer, I got more and more embarrassed and frustrated and upset about the whole thing,” Bradley tells me.

At one point, her daughters had to take her down a main road. “Being pushed on a road, especially in London, is scary,” she says. “It was scary for me, it was scary for the girls.”

When they returned home, Belinda, who is a 19-year-old Writing and Theatre student at the University of Roehampton, was so furious at the situation that she started a petition for Google Maps to include wheelchair-friendly routes. It hit over 100,000 signatures in a fortnight. At the time of writing, it has 110,601 petitioners.


Belinda's petition.

Belinda was surprised that Google Maps didn’t have accessible routes. “I know Google Maps so well, [Google]’s such a big company, it has the satellite pictures and everything,” she says. “So I was really surprised because there’s loads of disabled people who must have such an issue.”

The aim of her petition is for Google Maps to generate routes that people using wheelchairs, crutches, walking sticks, or pushing prams will be able to use. “It just says that they’re a little bit ignorant,” is Belinda’s view of the service’s omission. “To me, just to ignore any issues that big needs to be solved; it needs to be addressed almost immediately.”

But she also wants to raise awareness to “make life better in general” for people with disabilities using navigation apps.

Belinda has not received a response from Google or Citymapper, but I understand that Google is aware of the petition and the issue it raises. Google declined to comment and I have contacted Citymapper but have not received a response.

Google Maps does provide information about how accessible its locations are, and also allows users to fill in accessibility features themselves via an amenities checklist for places that are missing that information. But it doesn’t provide accessible walking routes.

“There’s no reason that they couldn’t take it that bit further and include wheelchair accessible routes,” says Matt McCann, the founder of Access Earth, an online service and app that aims to be the Google Maps for people with disabilities. “When I first started Access Earth, I always thought this is something Google should be doing, and I was always surprised they haven’t done it. And that’s the next logical step.”

McCann began crowdsourcing information for Access Earth in 2013, when he booked a hotel in London that was supposed to be wheelchair-friendly – but turned out not to be accessible for his rollator, which he uses due to having cerebral palsy.

Based in Dublin, McCann says Google Maps has often sent him on pedestrian routes down cobbled streets, which are unsuitable for his rollator. “That’s another level of detail; to know whether the footpaths are pedestrian-friendly, but also if they’re wheelchair-friendly as well in terms of the surface,” he notes. “And that was the main problem that I had in my experience [of using walking routes].”

Access Earth, which includes bespoke accessibility information for locations around the world, aims to introduce accessible routes once the project has received enough funding. “The goal is to encompass all aspects of a route and trip,” he says. Other services such as Wheelmap and Euan's Guide also crowdsource information to provide access-friendly maps.

So how long will it take for more established tech companies like Google to clear the obstacles stopping Mary Bradley and millions like her using everyday services to get around?

“You can use them for public transport, to drive, you can use them if you’re an able-bodied person on foot,” she says. “But there are loads of us who are completely excluded now.”

Sign Belinda Bradley’s “Create Wheelchair Friendly Routes on Google Maps" here.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.