Kendall, Cooper and Burnham - pictured here with Jeremy Corbyn - have sent a joint letter to Labour HQ. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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Burnham, Cooper and Kendall issue a letter to Labour HQ raising concerns over the ballot

The three non-Corbyn campaigns have sent a joint letter alleging that unfair processing of affiliated supporters, drawn from trade unions, brings the integrity of the election into doubt.

In a remarkable intervention, the campaigns of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have issued a joint letter to Labour HQ, highlighting concerns over the integrity of the ballot.

Although the £3 scheme - where members of the public can participate in the election for just £3 - has attracted controversy, with MPs and activists concerned it has opened the process up to sabotage by the party's enemies, it is not this aspect of Labour's new "One Person, One Vote" electoral system that is causing concern.

Instead, it is the affiliated supporters drawn from trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party that the centrist campaigns believe are impeding a fair election.

Campaign sources say that the contact details of trade union members - some 90,000 strong - are being withheld from their campaigns.

Meanwhile, insiders report that the details of trade union members have been passed onto party headquarters with their telephone numbers scrubbed, preventing either the party or the candidates from contacting them.

But, they allege, the Jeremy Corbyn campaign has been given direct access to these members, handing them an advantage. But an aide to the Corbyn campaign insisted that no such advantage is being extended their way. "Each of the campaigns are sent the data of supporters and members at the same time. No campaign gets any part of the data ahead of the others."

The Cooper, Burnham and Kendall teams are also pushing for the party to tell all four campaigns when members have voted to prevent activists being bombarded with unnecessary communications.

Dear Iain

We are writing following the meeting with campaign teams yesterday morning.  There are two issues we wish to follow-up on.

Lists of members/registered supporters/affiliated supporters

We are concerned we will only receive accurate lists in around 10 day’s time, which hinders each campaign’s effort. It would appear unreasonable for an election to be taking place without the provision of a full list of voters. If you are sharing the information with ERS, then it is reasonable for the campaign teams to also be provided with it. It was mentioned in the meeting that the data could contain individuals who have not been fully validated, however, if ERS are able to use this data then I believe the campaign teams should also be able to use it, on the understanding that individuals may later be excluded. We believe it is essential that campaign teams have maximum ability to contact potential voters, especially as the affiliated supporters data is likely to be made available to candidates who have the respective union support. This would not be a level playing field for all candidates. We would ask that the Procedures Committee consider making this data available to campaign teams 48 hours before it is provided to the ERS. It is likely that people receiving their ballot details will vote within 48 hours of receiving them and so campaign teams will be hugely disadvantaged if they are not in receipt of the data until some 5 days later.

Lists of members still to vote

We also feel it would be reasonable to provide lists of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters who have voted. This will help us focus our effort on voters who have yet to cast their ballots. It would also mean that we are not calling members who have already voted.

We understand the Procedures Committee is in the tomorrow and believe that these are important agenda items for discussion at that meeting. We would be grateful if you would ensure this email is tabled at the meeting, and would ask for a response afterwards.
Kind regards

Vernon Coaker (Yvette Cooper campaign)

Michael Dugher (Andy Burnham campaign)

Toby Perkins (Liz Kendall campaign)

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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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.