Brothers speaks out on Labour’s failure to appoint shadow disability minister

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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).

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  • TM

    No of course they haven’t responded. I’m absolutely furious that Corbyn and his team have allowed this appalling situation to happen.
    In a twitter conversation someone asked Sarah Champion as Women and THEN equalities minister if her brief included disabled people, her response was yes, I would hope so!
    I’ve been a supporter of Corbyn due to his support for disabled people and the horrific ‘reforms’ we have had to endure now for more than 6 years. But so far has been a huge let down.
    It all looks so shoddy and amateurish with the left hand not knowing what the right Han is doing with no one seemingly caring either apart from those MP’s with a disability. So presumably they can be easily ignored.
    We all know this green paper is in fact worse than IDS’s ‘reforms’ in that Green intends to make work a cure for all but first they will start with the low hanging fruit musculoskeletal and mental health. There needs to be someone with sole responsibility for pouring through this obnoxious hatful fixed consultation that will inevitably lead to more deaths.

  • Sophia Christina Botha

    Maybe if Emily Brothers & the Labour PLP actually stopped trying to oust Jeremy Corbyn & got behind him then there wouldn’t be a problem of appointing shadow disability spokesperson

    Considering Jeremy aCorbyn has spoken up for disabled peeps more then any other Labour leader I question whether DDsability News Service should be giving a platform to Emily Brothers who had actively tried to oust him.

    • Hi Sophia
      It’s not my job to decide who should or should not be allowed to criticise Jeremy Corbyn from within the party. The reason I have quoted Emily is that she is a disabled person, and she has earned the right to speak out publicly on these issues through a long career of fighting for disabled people’s rights, and through her own lived experience. The majority of my stories over the last couple of years have probably been broadly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn, because he and John McDonnell have been extremely supportive of disabled people’s anti-cuts protests. However, when they mess up – as they have here – I’m more than happy to run stories highlighting their failures.
      Best wishes,
      John

    • TM

      As a Labour Party member of many years who voted for Corbyn twice I am really glad that John has highlighted this.
      Yes great Corbyn and team have shown their support for disabled people do you think that buys them a free pass from here on in?