Democracy Bulletin, May 7th

Welcome to the Election Week edition of the Democracy Bulletin,

It’s all go across the country (except in Northern Ireland) as covid-safe election counts continue.

Yesterday was the largest set of elections for over 50 years in the UK, with 4,310 separate ballots and over 5,166 representatives up for election, with the vote held in over 35,500 polling stations! A huge and complex exercise, as noted by Democracy Club.

While we wait, we’ve got a great haul of news, updates, project plugs and election glamour from across the democracy space for you.

If you’re new — this newsletter is a weekly roundup of activities from across the democracy sector, including a summary of updates, job listings (at the bottom!), news and even the odd bit of gossip from our Thursday meetups.

Please do share your ideas, feedback and any questions you might have about the Democracy Handbook, meetup and newsletter via our survey or send us an email.

We’ve set up a new recurring calendar event for the Democracy Meetup, you can add it to your calendar here.

We’ve also created a new wider UK Democracy Calendar so you can subscribe to every event from the democracy sector to your calendar as they are added to the handbook.

As always we suggest taking a look at the meetup notes directly to see what people have written in their updates this week. Can you imagine if everyone in the sector wrote an update every week for all to see?

Please do take a moment to forward this email to anyone who might find it useful — they can sign up for the bulletin here.

Without further ado, your election week highlights:


Labour suffers catastrophic defeat in Hartlepool. The by-election has been the focal point of election coverage over the last few weeks. The crushing result in the so-called ‘red wall’ seat with more than 51.9% of votes going to the Conservative candidate is expected to cause angst and head-scratching within the Labour Party.

Hold the press, Election Leaflets is back! You can now photograph and upload your election leaflets, reports Peter Keeling of Democracy Club. Uploaded leaflets form an archive of useful data used by academics, journalists, campaigners and investigators. Since 2010 over 18,136 leaflets have been uploaded to the platform. Peter also wrote a piece about elections in the last pandemic for History Today.

Fair Play. With the 2021 elections now in the rearview mirror, the Fair Play Pledge is wrapping up, writes Kyle Taylor. In recent days the Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Lib Dems and English Lib Dems committed their regional parties as a whole to the pledge. They also succeeded in signing up Sadiq Khan, Luisa Porrit and Sian Berry from the London mayoral race, as well as Paul Williams’ Hartlepool by-election campaign. In other news, the Fair Play Fact Check is now available in web browser extensions stores, with a showcase launch event coming soon.

Improving transparency in England’s patchy local elections data. Lucy Zhu at the Local Government Information Unit reports on their work compiling local elections data for the LGIU’s Ones to Watch Guide. They state there has been an improvement in transparency from both councils themselves and from other sources.

Community Manifesto. Similar to the recent Bristol Citizens’ Agenda, Gavin Barker at the Centre for Welfare Reform has been focusing on a community manifesto for the Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum, gathering local submissions of policy ideas and initiatives for new incoming candidates to consider following the local elections.

Compass cross-party post-election debrief. Colin Miller of Compass recommends their event next Tuesday 11th May. Compass is playing host to John Curtice, Caroline Lucas, Layla Moran, Clive Lewis, Tommy Sheppard and others for a post-election debrief. The event will likely cover talk of a progressive alliance, PR and the potential breakup of the UK.

The Wonk’s Guide to Hartlepool. Whilst we wait patiently for the results of elections across England, Wales and Scotland, Aveek Bhattacharya, Chief Economist of the Social Market Foundation, writes about the challenges facing the town of Hartlepool, centre of election attention over the last few weeks.

Democracy Meta

Innovation in Politics Awards. Josef Zehetner of the Innovation in Politics Institute joined us at the Democracy Meetup to welcome those in the sector to submit their most outstanding political initiatives as nominees for the prestigious award. A jury over 1,000 citizens from across Europe will select the winning projects in nine categories.

Apply now for CCC’s 2021 Summer School. Looking for career advice from leading scholars in territorial politics? Looking for feedback on your research? The Centre for Constitutional Change’s Sovereignty, Independence and Constitutional Change Summer School is now open to applications. Apply by 10th May.

FOI & WasteWorks. Myfanwy Nixon from mySociety reports you can now watch the video of mySociety’s FOI policy launch, Alex Parsons has also been adding nerdy bits of detail into subsidiary blog posts on things that didn’t make it into the policy paper, like how Network Rail became subject to FOI. mySociety’s trading arm SocietyWorks also launched their new council waste platform, WasteWorks.

Rebooting Democracy. Liz Crosbie of Reboot GB soft launched the Reboot Pledge this week, calling on opposition party leaders to work together, tackle the climate crisis and commit to electoral reform.

Applications now open to NCCPE Engage Academy. The NCCPE announced this year’s applications for their Engage Academy are now open. Running for seven years, the Engage Academy is a nine month development programme for public engagement professionals. Find out more here.

Tory activists decry use of Party funds for private costs. ConservativeHome found that 7 in 10 Conservative activists believe that money raised by the party shouldn’t help fund the leader’s private costs.

Reforming Democracy

“Please honour us and give us a voice”. Last week we covered #NewScots, this week we highlight the reverse reality in England. This week in the Bristol Cable, Priyanka Raval talks to Asli Tatliadim, Manager at Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) who’s lived in Bristol since moving to the UK in 2017. Despite her keen interest in local politics, she is unable to vote. Although there is an escalating campaign for similar rights to those in Wales and Scotland, the Government has not been forthcoming. Chloe Smith MP, Conservative Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution rejected any further extensions to the franchise “for local elections to include any other resident foreign nationals”.

Thematic groups underway. Thematic groups bringing together civil servants and civil society as part of the development of the new National Action Plan for Open Government have started, with the first of four Open Procurement and Open Health workshops taking place this week. Open Justice will start on May 10th, reports Kevin Keith, Chair of UK Open Government Network. Sign up here to get involved in this vital process.

Senior Tory backs Votes at 16. Tobias Ellwood MP signals their support for expanding the franchise to 16 and 17 years olds in England, following on the coattails of Scotland and Wales.

Celebrating Votes at 16 in Wales. Yesterday’s Senedd election was the first time in Wales that 16 years olds had the right to vote. Writing for ERS, Kelly Harris, a youth worker involved in the evolution of the issue over the last 20 years, looks back on the campaign, from the Funky Dragon (the Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales, at the time) to Welsh Senedd itself.

Newly relaunched ElectHer promotes Peer Circles. Structured as a 7-session programme, Peer Circles will run three times a year to create a safe and constructive space for women who are considering standing for elected office.

Unlock Democracy calls for independent inquiry into Conservative Party donations linked to COVID-19 contracts. Their petition calls on the Tory Treasurer to hand over donations received from individuals and companies that benefited from COVID-19 contracts.

Safeguarding Democracy

Institute for Government calls for full statutory public inquiry into government action during the pandemic. Whilst the Prime Minister continues to claim an inquiry would distract from managing the crisis, the IfG’s report details why now is the time for the promised inquiry. Another new IfG paper sets out the changes needed to restore trust in government and reduce the risk of conflicts of interest undermining public confidence.

Governing for the future. The RSA publishes a new report examining lessons for the future, thinking about democracy in particular. The report says that due to a string of high-profile scandals and untransparent decision making during the crisis, responses are urgently needed to restore public trust and confidence in UK governance. The report recommends a deliberative assembly to discuss the COVID-19 response, radical transparency approaches and a new lobbying tax.

Constitution Unit webinar on Ministerial Standards. Don’t miss the Constitution Unit’s upcoming webinar on May 24th on Ministerial Standards, with Sir Alex Allan, former Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, Susan Deacon, former Minister for Health in Scotland and Prof Robert Hazell, Professor of Government and the Constitution at the Constitution Unit.

Women deceived into relationships with spycops send clear message. As the delayed public inquiry into undercover policing proceeds, Police Spies Out of Lives hire a van to emblazon their message across Central London. The van parked up outside key venues, such as the inquiry venue, the Houses of Parliament, the Home Office, the RCJ and New Scotland Yard.

Participatory Democracy & Community

Connecting for Good. Act Build Change Director Stephanie Wong shares their thoughts on organising methods and observations from their work on Connecting for Good, a movement against social isolation in Coventry.

Building up Win-Win Democracy. Perry Walker at TalkShop looks to offer facilitation training and workshops on their win-win democracy methodology to Flatpack councillors after the election. Win-win democracy provides a means for competing groups and factions to find compromise and emerge from discussions with ‘wins’ for everyone involved.

The Great Get Together. Between June 18th to 20th Great Get Together are encouraging communities to come out of isolation, share time together and celebrate what we have in common. You can find out more here.

Bridge Builder’s Handbook. The Relationship Project teamed up with the After Disaster Network this week to publish their new handbook, a step-by-step guide to building more connected communities. The work draws together mediation, peace building theory and conflict transformation work.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Over £400,000 crowdfunded by Scottish political parties ahead of the Holyrood elections. Across Scotland 13 parties and candidates raised twice the amount raised back in the 2017 General Election. 16 of the 108 funding campaigns failed to provide the necessary legal information on their pages, risking parties accepting donations from “impermissable sources”.

Scrap the Bristol Mayor? Lib Dem and Tory candidates agreed on one thing this election, both want to hold a referendum on scrapping the Bristol Mayor. They argue that councillors have been sidelined with the rise of the mayoral system, the Bristol Cable reports.

North for the North. New grassroots campaign Campaign for Northern Democracy launches. The group, an umbrella organisation, aims to raise the profile of the North’s democratic deficit. CfND is sponsored by Compass and the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.

Sturgeon rules out wildcat illegal indy vote. During the final Scottish leaders election debate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP ruled out holding an illegal referendum vote, in response to Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross MP. Prime Minister Johnson must transfer reserved powers to Scotland via a Section 30 order in order for the SNP to hold a referendum. The SNP have maintained they are only in the business of legal referenda, learning from Catalonia’s failed and violent independence bid.

The Cost of One Party Councils. Yesterday’s election is likely to produce swathes of ‘one-party councils’, Josiah Mortimer, Head of Comms at the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) argues, under the England and Wales one-party takes all local electoral system. ERS published a study back in 2015 that found councils dominated by single parties could waste the UK as much as £2.6bn a year through a lack of scrutiny of their procurement processes.

Break-Up Britain. Forty-four years ago, Tom Nairn predicted the break-up of the United Kingdom. Writing for Verso ahead of this week’s historic Scottish election, James Foley of Common Weal, revisits Nairn’s prognoses for the break up of the British state.

The Union’s Promise. Charlotte Alldritt of the Centre for Progressive Policy writes in The Times (paywall) that the promise of the Union is vanishing with the British Government increasingly serving England alone. The potency, legitimacy and sustainability of the UK government is threatened by apathy and incompetence as well as Westminster’s grating superiority complex, they write.

Parliament and Northern Ireland. David Torrance of the House of Commons library has written a brief on the history of the relations and constitutional developments between Northern Ireland and the British Parliament since the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.

Media Democracy

Public Interest News. Congrats to Joe Mitchell who starts in their new role at the Public Interest News Foundation this week, working to provide financial support for indie local news publishers alongside research into independent publishing and experimentation and innovation in non-traditional news provision.

Reporting on election polls, results and surveys? Back in November 2019, IMPRESS and the Market Research Society produced this resource on reporting statistical data responsibly. IMPRESS is also hiring for a new Regulatory Executive.

BBC and Beyond. The Media Reform Coalition’s new campaign, ‘The BBC and Beyond: Reimagining Public Media’, launched this week, aiming to defend and re-envision public media in the digital age.

Good Reads/Watches

Embracing complexity in government. Thea Snow of the Centre for Public Impact on complexity and government. The piece is part of City of Melbourne’s upcoming City of the Future event by Participate Melbourne.

Office politics. Titus Alexander recommends a Guardian piece on Biden’s office politics, which resembles a chapter from their book Practical Politics.

Worlds apart. In this week’s Act Build Change mailer Sotez Chowdhury recommends Heineken’s Worlds Apart short film, not the brand, but their approach.

Active Job Listings across the Democracy Sector

Unsalaried job listings

Other paid opportunities

That’s all for this week, if you’ve found this useful, please forward it on to your colleagues. They can sign up for these emails here. And you can set up a recurring calendar event for the Democracy Meetup. Add it to your calendar here.

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.

These documents are open all week. If you can’t make our weekly meetup, you can always drop in to the meetup document of the current week and add to it by going to

See you next time,

James, Molly and the Democracy Handbook team




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