Democracy Bulletin, 21st July

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: hello@centrefordemocracy.org.uk

Highlights

  • Elections Bill everything you need to know
  • Make Votes Matter National Day of Action for PR — 31st July
  • Unlock Democracy & Compass win funding to shift Labour on PR
  • Fair Vote bringing together a coalition of orgs around the Elections and Online Safety Bills
  • Labour Party in severe financial crisis
  • Green Party co-leaders resign, new executive elected

Elections Bill

Fair Vote building ‘Democracy Defence’ coalition of organisations — sign up now
Kyle Taylor and the team at Fair Vote UK want to know whether democracy orgs are planning to engage on either the Online Safety Bill or Elections Bill and to what level so they can work towards a coalition approach. Dozens of orgs have already completed their brief survey to help map what’s happening! Reach out to Kyle to sign up or fill out their survey by Friday 23 July.

Petition to scrap Voter ID reaches 100,000 threshold for parliamentary debate
MPs across the political spectrum, from David Davis to Dawn Butler, have expressed their opposition to the scheme. With 100,000 signatures on the government’s e-petition site, the issue will now be considered for debate in Parliament.

Young Europeans Network in talks with MPs on Elections Bill amendments
Lara Parizotto, Co-Manager at Young Europeans Network, is in talks with MPs Clive Lewis and Cat Smith for a potential amendment to the Elections Bill focused on residence-based voting rights — see their briefing paper. The amendment will likely call for a similar approach in England as currently exists in Wales and Scotland that saw residents vote in the May elections regardless of where they come from.

Hands Off Our Vote campaign launches
Freddie Mallinson and Jack McAteer launched the new campaign, taking aim at voter ID. Rumour is they’ll be starting a new mailing list focused on voter ID in the next few weeks. Be sure to show your support and give them a follow!

PACAC inquiry into the work of the Electoral Commission held oral evidence sessions
On the 20th July the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee heard evidence from Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, Peter Geoghegan, Investigations Editor at openDemocracy, Lord Hodgson, and Chloe Hardy, Director of Policy and Comms at SMK, amongst others. You can review the meeting here.

Electoral Reform Society briefing on Voter ID
Earlier this month ERS posted a full briefing on voter identification, laying out the key arguments and evidence against the current proposals.

Elections Bill financial rules a ‘trojan horse’ opening up UK elections to outside influence
Tom Brake, Director of Unlock Democracy, Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society and Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Democracy, warn the Elections Bill is being used as a ‘trojan horse’ to funnel donations from non-domiciled sources outside the UK into our elections, opening up British elections to outside influence.

DCMS issues comment arguing against requiring photo ID for social media verification, but…
With 3.5m without photo ID in the UK, the Cabinet Office is proceeding with voter ID for elections.

MPs held Westminster debate on Voter ID plans
You can view the TheyWorkForYou Hansard entry for the 13th July Voter ID Westminster Hall debate here. The debate seemed to go unnoticed by those in the press, outside democracy campaigning circles.

Democracy Sector

Democracy Club are hiring a COO
Could you be Democracy Club’s next Chief Operating Officer?

Koreo report organisations can still access a grant to cover a part time role
Jonny Chambers, Senior Consultant at Koreo and part of The Centre for Democracy, says there are still plenty of grant opportunities available for the government’s Kickstart scheme. You can access a grant to hire a 16–24yr old currently on Universal Credit, covering 25 hours per week at national minimum/living wage and all contributions. Lots of democracy organisations have already taken up this opportunity — reach out to Jonny to find out more.

Make Votes Matter National Day of Action — 31st July
With an apparent growing momentum for electoral reform amongst UK left-of-centre parties, this year’s day of action slogan is: Make Noise for PR. MVM are calling on supporters across the country to get the word out for PR, through banner drops, marching bands, street stalls and more.

Clear the Lobby are experimenting with Reddit
Sebastien Salek runs the fantastic weekly email newsletter (when Parliament is sitting) explaining the laws MPs are voting on the following week. Seb is now experimenting with a new subreddit to allow people to suggest ideas for new laws, build support and get help to pass them in Parliament. Show your support and join the new subreddit — they’ll start when their members hit 1,000.

LabourList report Labour Party’s finances in severe disarray
The Labour Party is reportedly down to one month’s fiscal reserves and has offered voluntary severance to all NEC funded staff. General Secretary David Evans reports this is due to falling member numbers and antisemitism legal costs.

George Bolton working to experiment with young people on methods to build trust in democracy
George is an incoming PhD student at the University of Southampton, working with the university’s Centre for Deliberative Futures. They have been actively networking with democracy organisations with young people and are keen discuss their work and collaborations. You can get in touch with George via their email.

Women’s Equality Party host WEPstock — a new festival for feminist community building
The virtual festival is centred around building and developing communities, featuring educational interviews, quiz sessions and panel discussions. Tickets are now on sale.

Reboot plans a new series of webinars, podcasts and a newsletter
Holding their first webinar this past Monday focusing on learning from the recent Lib Dem win in Chesham & Amersham, Liz Crosbie and the team are launching a new podcast and newsletter for supporters.

More in Common launch ‘The Endless Sea’ project
Inspired by the words of Antoine de St. Exupéry, The Endless Sea is an experimental narrative project to help shape the positive narratives of tomorrow. The project aims to assess whether this narrative approach can contribute to More in Common’s stated goals to help unite divided societies.

Democratic Reform

Government sets firm precedent for supremacy of the executive
Lord Falconer highlights the Government’s use of a Written Ministerial Statement to override an Act of Parliament last week, which is likely enforceable by judicial review. The supremacy of Parliament is conventionally expressed through legislation. Lord Falconer argues that this government action now means that in practice supremacy is now exercised through government motion, the supremacy of the executive.

Robert Buckland introduces new Judicial Review and Courts Bill
Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, delivered a keynote speech at Policy Exchange on judicial review ahead of the parliamentary introduction of the new Judicial Review and Courts Bill this Wednesday. As part of the Constitution Unit’s conference last month the Secretary of State argued for the courts to narrow their remit, that they are “reading too much into the law”. Expect to hear more on the bill in coming weeks.

Liberty highlight actions to take to reject the Police Bill in their latest PCSC newsletter
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will move to the Lords stage after the Summer Recess, according to Liberty’s latest intel. Liberty highlight that the bill will face significant opposition in the Lords and may even be defeated, owing to the composition of the Lords, and that its ranks include former senior judges, lawyers and campaigners with human rights experience. Sign up to Liberty’s newsletter on the Police Bill here.

Unlock Democracy & Compass kickstart new project to persuade Labour on electoral reform
Awarded a new grant of £80,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Unlock and Compass are now working to complement, network and grow upon existing efforts to shift Labour on electoral reform.

83% of Labour members back shift to PR new poll finds
A new poll of 1,000 Labour Party members conducted by YouGov for Labour for a New Democracy found only 10% of party members say the party should not support the switch from FPTP to a form of PR. A previous YouGov survey in December 2019, prior to the election, found 76% of party members supporting a shift to PR. The results reflect the success of the Labour for a New Democracy campaign amongst Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), with more than a third of CLPs passing motions in support of PR.

Shout Out UK and Titus building support for political literacy
As the Higher Education Bill enters the committee stage, Titus Alexander and the team at Shout Out UK are working to build support for a political literacy amendment to the bill. Get in touch with Titus and the team for more information. Titus also suggests identifying an MP to table an EDM to rally support for the HE Free Speech Bill, view and comment on the draft here.

English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) to be scrapped, Government announces
Michael Gove has reported that together with Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, they have reviewed the system of EVEL and have decided to scrap the procedure in order to simplify the legislative system. The system, suspended since April 2020, was established to address the West Lothian Question.

What do you know about the Scandinavian two-bloc system?
Electoral Reform Society guest writer Dylan Difford breaks down the bloc system of Scandinavian politics. The bloc system is a fascinating and unwritten rule of countries in the region with a long history, with the benefit of democratising and transparentising the government formation process.

Integrity & Transparency

Progress on the UK Government’s next National Action Plan for Open Government is well underway
Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network, shares their progress on the next National Action Plan (NAP). Member governments of the Open Government Partnership must complete an NAP plan every two years. As the 2019–2021 NAP runs it course, Kevin and the OGN are working on co-creating the next plan with civil servants and civil society. At the moment, commitments (policies) for inclusion in the 5th NAP underway include Open Justice, Open Contracting / Procurement, Algorithmic Transparency, Open Health, and Natural Resources / Climate Change. Civil society leads have been appointed for each theme and you can see progress to date here. There is still time to contribute, sign up here to be involved in any of these groups and those not mentioned here.

Check out Crony Connect — helping you to identify politically connected individuals
Using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and MP’s Register of Financial Interests, Crony Connect is a new tool (in beta) that searches for associations between target individuals, their associated companies and any connected donations in financial interest databases.

FOI responses suggest Priti Patel misled Parliament on aspects of the Police Bill
During a 15th March parliamentary debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, Priti Patel, Home Secretary, said she had worked closely with the Police Federation. A FOI response reveals she did not consult the Police Federation, with the federation responding: “ We did not provide a written submission nor were we consulted on issues of protest-related legislation.” This follows senior police officers remarks earlier this month that they did not ask for the powers and former officers remarking the bill ‘is harmful to democracy’.

Elections

Green Party leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry step down triggering leadership race
Sharing the leadership for the past three years, Bartley and Berry have stood down and removed themselves from the upcoming ballot, citing their intention to help the future co-leaders settle into the role prior to a potential snap election. Berry mentioned apparent tensions at the top of the party over trans-rights as a key reason for her resignation. Bartley says he will now focus on building a progressive alliance. The Greens are also currently celebrating the election of a new party executive.

Electoral Reform Society launching new report highlighting the success of PR in Wales, Scotland & London
On the anniversary of the Scottish and Welsh referendums of 1997, and as Make Votes Matter launch their day of action on PR, ERS launch their new report comparing the new proportional representation elections in the Senedd, Holyrood and London Assembly with previous elections to those bodies, to show how PR achieves better and fairer outcomes.

House of Commons Library briefing on the 2021 Senedd elections
The briefing provides a full breakdown of the 2021 elections in Wales.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Welsh Government confirms their longstanding commitment to a federal UK
Under the label of ‘entrenched devolution’, Mark Drakeford has set out his stall for reform of the union. The recently published strategy paper Reforming our Union: Shared Governance in the UK June 2021 highlights the diminished nature of inter-governmental relations and processes, noting that not one single meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee has been convened since the current PM took office.

Greater London Authority research project on civic participation — share the survey via your networks
Dr Elisabeth Pop, Citizenship and Integration Officer at the GLA, is running a new London wide survey on civic and democratic participation mechanisms to build trust and greater engagement between the city and the communities that make up the city. The survey is designed to highlight structural barriers, help shape best practice on civic and democratic participation and inform recommendations for what funders, local authorities and the government can do differently to support work and advocacy in this area.

Constitution Committee held Oral Evidence on Future Governance of the UK
Michael Gove MP, Minister of the Cabinet Office, and Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office, provided oral evidence to the committee.

Democracy & Media

What might an injection of news journalism do to an area’s civic engagement?
Joe Mitchell and the team at Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) are designing a potential programme around London 2022, experimenting how civic engagement might be affected by an increased dose of news journalism. PINF are also looking out for applications for their Autumn Leadership Programme for news publishers.

What Facebook gutting CrowdTangle means for misinformation
First Draft highlighted the demise of social media analysis tool CrowdTangle in recent weeks. The tool is critical for misinformation researchers and journalists for its access and data on trending topics, public accounts, communities and viral posts across a range of platforms. Speculation is now growing that the tool will be closed down, similar to the fate of Graph Search in 2019 — another tool critical for journalists and researchers. First Draft says analysts should consider ways to move toward purpose-built tools not reliant on the goodwill of platforms, such as The Markup’s Citizen Browser and Open Intelligence Lab’s 4CAT (more info on that here).

Institute for Strategic Dialogue report TikTok gives new virality to misinformation
ISD analyzed 124 TikTok videos featuring vaccine misinformation, finding that anti-vaccination audio tracks have gone viral as a ‘chain message’, with the original claim and post hidden by TikTok. Though TikTok has reportedly cracked down on COVID-19 misinformation, the report’s findings are likely the tip of an iceberg — an iceberg that is currently near-impossible to analyse at scale with current tools and access.

Funding Democracy

The National Lottery Community Fund announces first round of Growing Great Ideas funding
Growing Great Ideas offers long term, multi-year funding to initiatives they believe are capable of delivering transformative change.

And Finally…

Remembering Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook
During the Thatcher years, two leading figures within the Labour Party at the time were also strong and talented campaigners for electoral reform and PR. With more than 200 Constituency Labour Parties now in favour of PR, Alan Yearsley celebrates their contribution to democratic reform efforts in the UK in this piece for The Chartist.

The Local Trust on Community Power
Responding to social historian David Boyle’s recent and provocative work on community power for the Local Trust, Colin Prescod — an academic sociologist and documentary filmmaker of Black British community struggles, examines how community development plays out through social upheaval and community action.

Parline — global data on national parliaments
The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s new Parline resource has comprehensive data on all national parliaments across the world!

Worth a look: Future Now
Future Now combines a political-action committee, advocacy group and the Future Now Fund. Acting from a ground-up approach, focusing activity within states and local communities, they aim to enact a far reaching policy agenda by 2030 across the United States.

Featured Upcoming Events

The Centre for Democracy maintains a full database of events from across the democracy sector.

View the database here — Have we missed something? Add it here!

Active Job Listings across the Democracy Sector

View the full database of upcoming job listings here — have we missed any? Add them via this form.

Apply ASAP

Jobs with upcoming deadlines

Unsalaried job listings

We’ve been experimenting with the format of this email 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 Sebastien Salek of Clear the Lobby, Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation & The Centre for Democracy, Lara Parizotto — Co-Manager at the Young Europeans Network, Michela Palese — Research and Policy Officer at the Electoral Reform Society, Jon Morter of The Progressive Alliance, George Bolton — democracy research PhD student, Shaun Roberts — Head of Campaigns at Unlock Democracy, Jonny Chambers of Koreo & The Centre for Democracy, Liz Crosbie — Project Director at RebootGB, Kyle Taylor — Director at Fair Vote UK and Kevin Keith — Chair of the Open Government Network.

See you next time, add to your calendar

James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team

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Strengthening the networks of people working for a better democracy — If we want things to change, we need to start talking to each other more. Start here.

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