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A flashback to all the times Theresa May said a snap election was a terrible idea because it would cause "instability"

Theresa May used to say an election would cause "instability". Now she says it's the only way to stop instability. So which is it?

 

From her first speech announcing her candidacy as Tory leader (and therefore prime minister), Theresa May has insisted - really, really insisted - that she did not plan to call a general election. It always seemed an odd position, as she lacked her own mandate and was stuck trying to juggle her own legislative agenda alongside the promises made by David Cameron and George Osborne. The Tories' lead in the polls also promised her an increased majority, making it easier to get legislation through the Commons.

But no - she repeatedly told the press - she would not seek an early election. Why? Because after the EU referendum, the UK needed a "period of stability". 

And why is she now calling an election? In order to "guarantee certainty and stability". 

Figure that one out if you can.

Anyway, for the record, let's take a trip down Memory Lane to appreciate how May was dead against an early election - until she wasn't. 

30 June 2016

"There should be no general election until 2020," said Theresa May when launching her Tory leadership campaign.

4 September 2016

Appearing on the BBC's flagship political show, May refused to answer Andrew Marr's suggestion that she must be "tempted" to hold an early election.

Andrew Marr: Now, we’ve talked about a possible Scottish referendum and we’ve talked about the timing of Article 50 and so on. Let me ask you about another election, which is the next general election. Because if you look at the polling - and a lot of people in your party are very excited about this – if you went to the country now you’d get a majority of something like 114 or 130. That seems a wonderful opportunity for you. Are you tempted in any way to all a snap election?

Theresa May: I think what’s important, particularly having had the referendum vote, is that we have a period of stability. So there’s a – a challenge ahead in ensuring that we make a success of coming out of the European Union. I think it’s important that we focus on that and the other reform agenda that I have for the country as we go forward. And we’ll be continuing the manifesto on which the Conservative government was elected in 2015, so I don’t think there’s a – a need for an election. I think the next election will be in 2020. 

AM: Let me make this very clear, because again it’s very important. Under current law the next election will be in 2020. No ifs, no buts, no snap elections, no changing the law. Under you, is that absolutely certain, that we’re not going to see an election before 2020? 

TM: I – I – I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020. 

1 October 2016

In an interview with the Sunday Times, May reiterated her belief that an election would cause "instability".

 

2 October 2016

A month later, Andrew Marr had another go at getting her to open up, but still no dice.

Andrew Marr: It just seems to me in terms of the brutal politics, there are lots of opposition MPs who for their own reason might want to vote this down and there are a lot of Tories on the so called soft Brexit argument who might want to vote it down. You may well not be able to get this through, and if you can’t, isn’t that the trigger for another General Election? I know you’ve been through this, we’ve been talking about this before.

Theresa May: Well, Andrew, let’s just look – as I’ve just said, when parliament voted for a referendum on staying in the European Union, parliament voted six to one to say to the British people this is your choice. We’re going to ask you this question. You give us your voice. The British people have determined that we will leave the European Union and I think anybody who’s looking at this Repeal Bill, which will repeal the European Communities Act, will make us that independent sovereign nation once again, able to determine our own laws, anybody looking at that should remember that this is about delivering for the British people. And it’s – to me it’s not just about leaving the EU, it’s about that essential question of the trust that people can have in their politicians. The people have spoken, we will deliver on that.

7 March 2017

"It's not going to happen. It's not something she plans to do or wishes to do," says the prime minister's spokesman, after William Hague writes a column suggesting a snap election will give May a mandate for Brexit negotiations. 

30 March 2017

"There isn’t going to be one. It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election," said the prime minister's spokesman

18 April 2017

"Since I became Prime Minister I have said there should be no election until 2020 but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take," said Theresa May this morning. 

What - cough 20 point poll lead cough - could possibly have changed her mind?

I'm a mole, innit.

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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.