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Photo – Emily at Labour’s Special Conference at The Queen Elizabeth Centre

Photo – Emily at Labour’s Special Conference at The Queen Elizabeth Centre

In response to renewed calls for improvements in access to politics for disabled people made today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Sutton and Cheam at this year’s General Election, Emily Brothers said:
“Pathways to Politics are getting narrower and the challenge to participate is getting tougher for disabled people. That’s why EHRC’s representations are welcome, as decisive and renewed action is needed to enable disabled people to take part in our democracy.”
Before embarking on her political journey Ms Brothers was a senior manager with EHRC and led its “Pathways to Politics” research that informed the Speakers Conference on Parliamentary Representation. This resulted in the establishment of the Access to Elected Office Fund for Disabled People (AEOFDP), which the Government closed soon after the General Election.
Emily Brothers explains:
“Meeting the extra costs incurred by disability is a major challenge. I could not have taken such an active part as a Parliamentary Candidate without the funding of Support Workers. As a blind candidate, for example, I was better able to sift through a vast array of information at speed, so I could engage with voters on social media, in the street and at hustings. Networking, travel, leafleting and attending meetings without a Support Worker would have made the task virtually impossible. That’s particularly the case in non-target seats, as Party resources tend to be very limited.”
Earlier this week Ms Brothers was unsuccessful in securing Labour’s nomination for Croydon and Sutton to contest the 2016 Greater London Assembly Election. She explained:
“I had no funding for additional costs arising from disability, so I had to pay for help from my own purse. That meant I couldn’t pay for a leaflet, putting me at a disadvantage. Many people wouldn’t have been able to pay for support and that is likely to be the case for me in the future.
“Disabled people need a level playing field. The Access Fund provided me with a fair opportunity to fight the General Election, whereas it was an uphill struggle to secure a nomination for a GLA constituency without adequate support.
“It was a retrograde step by the government in closing the Access Fund, which gave me invaluable support and likewise to other disabled people across the political spectrum.”
Emily Brothers remains in the contest to secure a London-Wide nomination for the 2016 election. The outcome will be known in early November 2015. In the meantime,
Ms Brothers added:
“I’m very disappointed that the number of disabled MP’s has fallen, especially in my own party. We have a few MP’s who have talked about previous episodes of mental health problems, but I’m not aware of any openly identifying Labour disabled members in The Commons or devolved assemblies.
“Labour has been very successful in getting an improved gender balance with Women Only Shortlists and much improved awareness for ethnic minority and gay politicians. That hasn’t translated into action for disabled people. So it is now time to give serious consideration to affirmative action measures.
“I believe political parties have a responsibility to ensure they are broadly representative. Providing disabled people with opportunities through proportional systems, such as the London List, feels like the just thing to do.
“I believe a fairer and more proportionate electoral system would help better reflect diversity. It would also encourage different ways of working, such as job sharing which some disabled people might find helpful.
“I want disabled people to work across parties to find solutions to the barriers we experience. Meeting the additional costs of disability must be a priority for us all.”
In the spirit of cross party co-operation, Emily Brothers will be speaking at a Green Party fringe event on 26/09/15 on improving diversity in politics.

1. EHRC’s research on ‘Pathways to Politics’ which Emily Brothers oversaw in 2010 is here:

2. The result of Labour’s selection for Croydon and Sutton GLA Candidate is here:

3. Emily Brothers recently wrote for LabourList about the aspirations of disable people here:

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