One of Labour’s most prominent disabled politicians has called on her own party to demonstrate its intent to hold the government to account by appointing a shadow disability minister.
Labour admitted last week that it had still not appointed a shadow minister for disabled people, nearly three weeks after party leader Jeremy Corbyn completed a reshuffle of his top parliamentary team.
Amid confusion, a spokesman for Corbyn eventually told Disability News Service that discussions were “ongoing” but that the post would “definitely be filled”.
The party has not had a shadow minister for disabled people since the promotion of Debbie Abrahams to shadow work and pensions secretary in July, more than three months ago.
Neither Corbyn’s spokesman nor Abrahams were able to say last week why the process had taken so long.
Now one of the party’s few high-profile disabled members has called for it to act now to fill the vacancy.
Emily Brothers (pictured) was one of the handful of disabled people to stand for Labour at the 2015 general election when she fought the Sutton and Cheam seat in south-west London.
But she has now expressed concern about Labour’s capability to hold the government to account over its new work, health and disability green paper, which was published this week.
She said Abrahams was “doing a great job in speaking out for disabled people”, but since her promotion the shadow disability role had remained vacant.
She said: “I was delighted that Jeremy Corbyn rectified a similar situation with mental health, but he needs to do likewise with the portfolio of shadow minister for disabled people.
“With the new green paper and the government ambition to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, there will undoubtedly be consequences.
“Labour must have the ‘capability’ to hold the government to account. Jeremy needs to demonstrate that intent by appointing a new shadow minister for disabled people.”
Among others to criticise the party this week were Labour’s former minister for disabled people, Anne McGuire, herself a disabled person, who said on Twitter: “In 1974, Labour appointed Alf Morris, Minister for Disabled People, the first in the world.
“It would be tragic if my party lost this focus.”
Neither Abrahams nor Corbyn’s spokesman had responded to Brothers’ comments by 11am today (Thursday).