Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who's up for a job in Jeremy Corbyn's new shadow cabinet?

Yvette Cooper has been widely tipped for a role.

Labour’s forward advance means that for the first time in Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the parliamentary Labour party is almost wholly united behind him.

That means that the Labour leader will have a far larger swathe of MPs to pick from when he reshuffles the shadow cabinet. (Due tomorrow, so as not to crowd out the morale-boosting photographs of Corbyn with the bumper crop of 49 new Labour MPs.)

Who will be in? Although there is a great deal of excitement in the press about a possible return to the shadow Home Office brief for Yvette Cooper, I’m told that is “not on the cards”.

“Jeremy has an immense sense of loyalty,” one well-placed source tells me, “he’s not going to remove people who have stuck by him, including those with very different politics, to accommodate others who have come to the party late.”

Another person close to the leader’s office observed that it would be “a slap in the face” to the likes of Barry Gardiner, Jonny Reynolds and Jon Ashworth, who have stayed in the shadow cabinet and put their shoulders to the wheel despite being from the centre-left, not the left, if they were moved to make way for the likes of Cooper.

The Labour leader is not minded to create vacancies by sacking those who have put their shoulders to the wheel, although a few older hands who served out of obligation, such as Teresa Pearce, the shadow communities secretary, have asked to return to the backbenches. Grahame Morris, too, is unwell and will be recused from duty.  

As well as the central trio of Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, Angela Rayner is immovable at shadow education and Jon Ashworth a near-certainty to remain at shadow health. Former Corbynsceptics will be welcomed in, but to junior posts and to fill existing vacancies.Abbott, who despite having her campaign marred by several high-profile gaffes in interviews and being recused from the Shadow Cabineet due to illness, remains Corbyn's closest and longest-standing ally, and will continue to play a major role. 

There will also be a determined effort to move on a generation. Centre-left MPs will be drawn from the Ashworth generation of 30 and 40-somethings, rather than appointing old warriors. There is a strong appetite in the leader’s office to find a post for Ed Miliband, but the difficulty is finding one that “gets the most out of him”. Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is being shadowed by Rebecca Long-Bailey, a favoured long-term candidate for the succession. McDonnell is of course an essential at shadow Treasury.

There are two posts that are likely to see the return of veterans. The role of shadow Northern Ireland is, due to the stalled executive and the active role of the DUP in sustaining the Conservative government, likely to go to an experienced operator. Vernon Coaker, who held the post under Ed Miliband and Corbyn, and who is regarded by the leader's office as a straight operator, could make a comeback there.

The other prize job for an old hand is the post of shadow leader of the House, currently held by Valerie Vaz. With the Conservative minority, the post is vital. The leader’s office were surprised to see Andrea Leadsom, who is not regarded to have been a success as environment secretary, moved to the post. There are a number of big beasts who could symbolically show that the party has united behind Corbyn by serving there with experience of the role – Harriet Harman chief among them. But I’m told that the favourite at present is Chris Bryant, who knows the ways of the House better than almost anyone, though Andrew Gwynne, who impressed the leader's office on the campaign trail, is also favoured. 

But for the most part, continuity, rather than change, will be Corbyn’s watchword when he reshuffles his frontbench tomorrow.

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.

Show Hide image

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.