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How Jeremy Corbyn can secure a great result for Labour in 2020

Centrist and moderate commentators think Corbyn will doom Labour, but they're wrong, says Tim Grayson.

I’m tired of reading articles from moderate, centrist and right-wing political commentators on how a Corbyn victory would signal the end of the Labour Party, kill off the Green Party and fragment the left (or words to that effect), so I thought I'd explain why I think they’re wrong, how I see a Corbyn victory as being a great, unifying result for a progressive Labour Party, the Greens and many other parties on the left, and how I think he could lead the party to victory in 2020.

I want to first clarify what I mean by ‘great result’, as results in politics are such subjective things. If Corbyn wins, left-leaning parties like the Greens will likely see a significant drop in votes and membership numbers, while Labour will likely see a surge. However, what many commentators don’t seem to understand is that people on the left/liberal side of the political spectrum care more about enacting positive change than party colours. It’s important to point out here that since the start of Corbyn’s campaign, the left (people and parties alike) have started to unite under a common cause, and this hasn’t happened for a generation. If he wins, the issues we hold close to our hearts will finally be thrust into the limelight and debated seriously in parliament. That’s the best result the left-leaning Labour voters, Greens and other left-wing parties could hope for, and I’m sure many with democratic socialist beliefs will either join Labour or start to form progressive inter-party alliances to help be a part of this change.

Historically, however, political parties have been unlikely to win without the support of centrists and moderates, but I believe the centre ground has been muddied with self-serving career politicians which have made ordinary people feel powerless and disenfranchised for so long that public apathy and weariness has crept in. I think this is why a third of those registered to vote didn’t even bother in the last election. It’s important to point out that the 'centre ground’ has also shifted further and further to the right under decades of a prevailing Tory narrative (perpetuated by the Lib Dems and New Labour), which I also believe is leaving a lot of people feeling cold. If the pre-general election leadership debates taught me anything, it’s that people want something they can vote for.

The Conservative party understands this better than any other large party, and this is why they did so well in the last election. They packaged themselves as the party for “aspirational” working people, which got them the votes from poor people who don’t want to be [or think of themselves as] poor, middle-earners who want to earn more and rich people who want to get richer. It’s good PR, pure and simple, and while I can’t stomach the Conservatives’ policies, at least I know where I stand with them.

In the last election I thought that Labour, in contrast, felt as if it was unsure of what it actually was trying to achieve (apart from wanting to oust the Tories). It felt as if the party was trying to be a 'Jack of all trades’ to try and win the support of both left and right-leaning moderates without the heart or policies to back it up. It all felt a little desperate, to be frank.

With Corbyn, on the other hand, people actually know what they’re voting for: a principled politician who speaks up for what he genuinely believes will be best for ordinary, vulnerable and excluded people. This is why I don’t think the 2020 election will be won in Blairite fashion by appealing to the already-voting centre ground, but instead by inspiring the third of registered voters who didn’t vote to get to the polling booths, as well as inspiring the many more who didn’t register to vote to actually sign up in the first place. That is the real challenge, and out of all the leadership contenders, only Corbyn has demonstrably shown he has the ability to inspire such loyalty.

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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.