Democracy Bulletin, 12th August
Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding and Molly Hudson of The Centre for Democracy. Read by 280+ democracy organisations. We read everyone’s newsletters & research so you don’t have to. If you want us to cover yours, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- all upcoming events from across the sector (12) add your event
- all current job adverts (6) add your vacancy
- grants and paid fellowships (50+) add your grant
- Elections Bill democracy orgs come together to form coalition, set up Slack and shared contact lists
- Electoral Reform Society launch new strategy for 2021–2024
- Young European Network and POMOC launch new #OurHomeOurVote campaign
- Association of Electoral Administrators call for sweeping changes to election delivery
- Official Secrets Act changes mean investigative journalists could face 14 years in prison
In case you missed it…
You can read this Democracy Bulletin email on Medium.
Elections Bill Coordination
Democracy organisations coming together under new umbrella campaign to amplify impact
Fair Vote, Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy, Open Britain, Best for Britain and others are co-developing a sector wide campaign framework for the Elections Bill. If your org is not yet in the loop and wants to be, you’ll need to add your contact details to this list by 5pm on Thursday 12 August.
How will the umbrella campaign work?
Kyle Taylor, Director at Fair Vote, notes general agreement on building a broad ‘brand’ for democracy campaigns, that issue-based coalitions emerge, but they will “fly the flag” that they are part of the “democracy defence initiative”, or whatever name the campaign later decides upon.
How will organisations stay connected as part of the joint campaign?
- Shared Contact List
If you haven’t already popped your contact details into this list, do so before Wednesday 11th August, when the list will become invite-only to maintain privacy. Fair Vote and the other orgs suggest using this list to connect with other orgs working on the same issues as you, to set up coordinating calls etc.
- Elections Bill Slack
A new Slack group has been set up by Best for Britain as a hub for fast communication. Channels are being set up for each aspect of the bill.
- Weekly Zoom “Office Hours”
Fair Vote UK will be facilitating a weekly session every Thursday at 12pm open to drop-ins. Email email@example.com for the calendar invite.
Immediate campaigns you can join:
Below are timely opportunities to collaborate, add your name to things, etc:
- This past Saturday 7th August was one month exactly to the second reading: Josiah Mortimer from ERS helpfully suggested orgs consider making noise to highlight the scale of collection action around this bill. Pop that in the diary!
- Joint submission to PACAC inquiry into Elections Bill: Unlock Democracy is facilitating a joint submission to PACAC. If you’re interested, follow the link and fill in details per the document prompts. Remember you can also “add your name” to boost impact if you don’t have resource to fully participate. Deadline is the end of this month.
- Civil Society sign-on for voter ID petition delivery to Downing Street: #HandsOffOurVote is doing a petition delivery to Downing Street on 7 September. Fair Vote UK is helping organise a parallel civil society org letter to be delivered at the same time. The text is fixed but if you’re keen to add your org/name, you can do that directly in the doc. Deadline is 2 September.
Other Elections Bill news and updates:
- ConservativeHome’s Paul Goodman provides a full rundown to the Elections Bill, reporting that Michael Gove MP will likely present the bill at Second Reading on September 7th, whilst Chloe Smith MP — Minister for the Constitution and Devolution — will lead, with Julia Lopez MP in support.
- Hannah Swirsky and the Centenary Action Group are investigating the relevance of Section 106 of the Equality Act with reference to the Elections Bill, they’re also ensuring that female MPs across the spectrum are aware of the impact of the bill upon women and that it’s on their radar.
- Jess Blair and the team at ERS Cymru are working up case studies at the moment to show the effects of the Elections Bill in action. They also report that the Senedd is quite likely to attempt to block the Elections Bill.
GLA gearing up for London Voter Registration Week
Elisabeth Pop and the team at London Voter Registration Week (LVRW) working with a wide array of London based civil society organisations and grassroots community groups across the city. Last year LVRW boosted voter registration in the capital by 14% across all demographics, and by a huge 25% among young people. London perennially suffers from high voter registration churn, due to its diverse, young and transient communities.
Democracy Club invite feedback on their website and services
Does your project or local authority embed or use Democracy Club’s services? Peter Keeling and the team have put together a stakeholder survey to find out more about how people use their tools. Let them know about how you use their services via the survey form.
COLDIGIT looking for local government members to interview as part of their research programme
Collective Intelligence Through Digital Tools is a new joint research project bringing together Nesta, the Economic & Social Research Council, SINTEF, NordForsk, University of Helsinki and Gothenburg University. Senior Researcher Oli Whittington is looking for members of local government to inform their work, get in touch if you’d be interested in taking part.
Climate Assembly UK deemed a success by independent evaluators
A group of experts including Jayne Carrick and Stephen Elstub of Newcastle University, David Farrel of University College Dublin and Patricia Mockler of Queen’s University, have judged the deliberative process a success, concluding that the UK Parliament should seek to establish more citizens’ assemblies in the future. The evaluation was funded by the UKRI QR Strategic Priorities Grant, with additional funds from a variety of academic sources.
Titus Alexander is promoting the idea of a ‘Democracy Mission’ for Higher Education
Will academics act together to strengthen democratic participation and governance, or will they just chronicle its decline, Titus asks. Their brief explanatory note on the idea of a “democracy mission” makes the case for universities to increase education and support for citizens to better develop the permanent experiment of democracy.
PolicyMogul offering free political monitoring
Unlock Democracy have embedded a real-time feed of political updates directly on their homepage, powered by PolicyMogul. Elliot Robinson from the PolicyMogul team claims that theirs is probably the most accurate source in the country for up-to-date information on democratic reform. You can sign up for this free service here.
Electoral Reform Society launch new strategy and new report Two Decades of PR
ERS Chief Executive Darren Hughes lays out ERS’ new strategy for 2021–2024. The strategy builds on their recent successes and draws upon wide-ranging conversations with members, supporters, councils, politicians and campaign groups across the UK. Key takeaways include: ERS aims to build a network supportive of democratic reform, persuade one of the two main parties to back PR, increase the salience of democracy and PR among key voter groups.
On Tuesday 10th August ERS published their new report, detailing the deployment and successful implementation of STV in Wales, Scotland and London. Two Decades of PR cites fairer and more proportionate electoral outcomes, improved voter agency and cross-party working as key benefits where STV has been rolled out.
Make Votes Matter celebrate their Day of Action and prepare to hire two new roles to help build their alliance
On 31st July MVM activists marched, sang, samba drummed and dropped banners right across the UK as part of a national Day of Action to promote proportional representation. MVM Co-Director Klina Jordan reckons the Day of Action was their biggest yet. Make Vote Matters are preparing to hire two new part-time roles to help develop their Alliance. The Alliance for Proportional Representation started back in 2016 and is a cross-party grouping of 71 organisations and parties, ranging from Conservative Action on Electoral Reform to Plaid Cymru. If you would like to sign the Good Systems Agreement and join the Alliance, reach out to the MVM team here.
YEN and POMOC launch new #OurHomeOurVote campaign
The Young Europeans Network and Polish Migrants Organise for Change have teamed up to re-launch their Our Home Our Vote campaign for residence-based voting rights. The campaign aims to bring Northern Ireland and England into line with Scotland and Wales, where voting rights are based on residence not citizenship. Find out more their website or get in touch with one of their Voting Rights Champions.
APPG on Political Literacy holding third meeting
Shout Out UK are convening a third meeting of the APPG on September 14th, with discussion between Simon Fell MP, Lord Ian McNicol, Nickie Aiken MP and Cat Smith MP. This session has a different approach to previous meetings, focusing on transatlantic comparisons between US and UK attitudes to political and media literacy and examples of international best practice.
Integrity & Transparency
Updated Cabinet Manual needed to maintain public trust
Together with the Nolan Principles for Public Life, the Cabinet Manual, the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service code are an important part of the UK’s constitutional framework. Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Chair of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, in a new report emphasises that the Cabinet Manual must be regularly updated so that it does not lack authority and risk constitutional confusion.
Committee on Standards in Public Life recommends digital election finance changes
In their new report, Regulating Election Finance, they recommend changing the law to require parties and campaigners to provide the Electoral Commission with more detailed invoices from digital suppliers, ie content used, regions of the country where the advert was targeted etc. They also recommend legislation to require social media platforms to create advert libraries where they permit election adverts, with precise spend figures and detailed metrics of the adverts.
AEA calls for sweeping changes to election delivery
In a new blueprint for electoral reform, the Association of Electoral Administrators — the UK body representing election professionals, requests decisive action to bolster capacity and resilience in UK elections, and in the process lessening the increasing pressures on election officers and workers across the UK. The report calls for new legislation to modernise core electoral processes, a 30 day electoral timetable, earlier deadlines for absent voting applications, full review of electoral funding to reduce the burden on LAs and a full re-evaluation of electoral registration including consideration for automatic and compulsory registration.
Democracy Club publishes 2021 Elections Report
The new review highlights the amazing strides Democracy Club over the last election cycle, with vastly expanded polling station finder coverage, high and consistent levels of engagement with local government (over 90% of councils provided data and more than 50% embedded DC’s widget!), WhereDoIVote got a Welsh language upgrade and so much more. Congratulations to the team for all their fantastic work! Remember, you can join the conversation and keep in the loop with all things election related on the Democracy Club Slack.
Devolved Democracy & Local Government
Centre for Governance and Scrutiny have published the full results of their Local Government annual survey
The new survey and report shine a light on how councils have fared throughout the pandemic, drawing attention to the fault lines in support provided to governance and scrutiny.
Launch of the 2021 Cllr Awards
Run by the Local Government Information Unit and the CCLA, the Cllr Awards are the only national awards to celebrate the vital work of councillors across England and Scotland. Nominations are now open for the awards until the 24th September.
Democracy & Media
Changes to the Official Secrets Act mean investigative journalists could face 14 years in prison
The Home Office has just ended a consultation to change the Official Secrets Act. Proposed changes include suggesting that journalists should be treated as those who commit espionage offences and leak information (undisclosed disclosures). The consultation also proposes increasing maximum sentences for such offences from two to 14 years in prison. Rachel Oldroyd, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, added: “Sources, leaks and whistleblowers are all crucial to holding power to account — including our Government. Removing the public interest defence for such disclosures is deeply troubling.”
Featured Upcoming Events
The Centre for Democracy maintains a full database of events from across the democracy sector.
Active Job Listings across the Democracy Sector
- Apply by 16 August: Service Designer at mySociety (£50–55k)
- Apply by 16 August: Campaigner at We Own It (£28,879)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Apply by 30 August: Social Media Intern at Best for Britain (£22k)
- Apply by 31 August: Engagement Lead at Involve (£36,490-£46,915)
Unsalaried job listings
- Open Deadline: Contract Specialist (Part-time) at Purpose (salary not given)
- Open Deadline: Campaigns Adviser at Digital Action (salary not given)
We’ve been experimenting with the format of this bulletin and the accompanying meetup, if you have any feedback we’d be glad to hear it.
If you can’t make our weekly meetup, you can always drop in to the meetup document of the current fortnight and add to it by going to democracymeetup.org.uk.
Thanks to everyone who joined us this week for Democracy Check-Ins. This week we were joined by Jon Norcross — Communications Officer at Electoral Reform Society, Jon Morter — @TheProgAlliance, Kyle Taylor — Director at Fair Vote UK and Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters.
See you next time, add to your calendar
James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team