UK Democracy Bulletin, 14th July 2022
Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding, Molly Hudson and Max Roche of The Centre for Democracy and Pilar Girvan of the Democracy Network. Read by 450+ 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 (6) add your event
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- Online Safety Bill pushed back until autumn
- Voter ID introduction before May 2023 in doubt, say electoral administrators
- Prohibition of Deception Bill introduced to Parliament
- The Politics Project wins Organisation of the Year award
- mySociety seeking new board members
Thanks to our contributors
Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Rose Longhurst — Program Officer at Open Society Foundation, Gavin Barker — Constitutional Reform Lead at Citizen Network, Pilar Girvan — Communications and Advocacy Officer at Involve, Ciaran Cummins — Researcher at Demos, Alex King — Comms and Marketing Associate at Shared Future CIC, Adam Spiers — Chief Technology Officer at Forward Democracy, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation, Myf Nixon — Communications Manager at mySociety, Kathryn BIlyard — Director at ARTCRY, and Rose Whiffen — Research Officer at Transparency International UK.
CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY ANNUAL SURVEY 2022
This is your chance to let us know what you think about our work so far. Your feedback is really important to us — but there’s a twist. This time, we’re using pol.is — an online deliberation tool developed for open ended feedback from large groups of people. It is well suited to gathering organic, authentic feedback while retaining minority opinions. Find out more about Pol.is and how you can use it in your work. Take part in the survey.
Online Safety Bill dropped from Commons business next week, pushed back to autumn
Eleanor Langford at PoliticsHome reports that the OSB has been dropped from Commons business to make way for a motion of no confidence in the government due to be put to the House on Monday. Opposition parties claim that the Government has “given up on governing” due to the leadership race, creating a political vaccum.
Online Safety Bill coalition warns OSB amendment risks becoming ‘disinformation laundromat’
More than 57 organisations joined the open letter sign-on, including Demos, Hacked Off, Fair Vote UK, Hope Not Hate and Foxglove, amongst others, and has received great coverage including City AM, The Evening Standard, Yahoo News and The Times (paywall). Help promote the campaign by RTing Fair Vote’s Twitter thread or if you’d prefer to do your own post on socials, the group has pulled together a social media toolkit here.
Online Safety Bill Report Stage debate: what’s happening?
Reminder: Online Safety Bill opportunities for collaboration
Are you working on the Online Safety Bill? Be sure not to miss Fair Vote UK’s weekly digest of news and updates relating to the Bill’s passage. RVSP for their weekly OSB Office Hours Zoom calls and sign up to the digest by emailing Matt Gallagher.
The Politics Project wins ‘Organisation of the Year’ at the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) awards
Hattie Andrews, Director at The Politics Project (TPP), and their team have run over 180 of their award-winning Digital Surgery sessions with teachers, students and politicians this year alone! Since The Politics Project’s founding in 2015, they’ve worked with more than 200 teachers, 5000 young people and more than 170 politicians in delivering high quality democratic education to the next generation.
Applications for 2022 Newspeak House residential programme are now open
Newspeak House is the London College of Political Technology, a hub for communities working to change society with technology, spanning all kinds of civic institutions, from government, politics, activism, charities, journalism, think tanks, NGOs, philanthropy, to academia. At the heart of Newspeak House is its residential programme, running since 2015. Seven residents spend a year immersed in these communities, enjoying the chance to meet thousands of people and attend events held on their doorstep. Find out more and apply here.
Post-Johnson: Where do we go from here?
This Monday Democracy Network and the Centre for Democracy created a space for democracy organisations to come together to reflect and discuss next steps after the collapse of the Johnson Government. Participants voiced concern, trepidation and confusion over the current state of politics, but at the same time marked a notable bloom in discourse around constitutional and democratic reform throughout last week — that there has been significant discussion of a written constitution and ministerial codes. View the shared notes from the session.
Democracy Network’s Pilar steps back, Involve hiring Project Administrator role
Pilar Girvan, Involve/Democracy Network’s Communications and Advocacy Officer, is taking a step back to pursue an exciting new PhD on land use and protest in the Highlands and Islands. Whilst she won’t be leaving Involve entirely, the team at the Centre for Democracy will be sad to see her go. Pilar has been an amazing help, working alongside us to jointly produce this newsletter since she joined the Democracy Network team in April. In her stead, Involve are now looking for a Project Administrator (1–0.8FTE) to work on the Democracy Network. The role also includes a small amount of communications for Involve. The deadline is 18th July, with interviews likely to take place on the 28th.
Swap My Vote launch new crowdfunder
Preparing for a snap general election at any moment, Adam Spiers, Josh Russell, Tom de Grunwald and the team at Swap My Vote have launched a new crowdfunder to invest in the platform and massively upgrade their existing services for tactical voters. Swap My Vote has been used by hundreds of thousands of voters in elections since 2015, support their crowdfunder now and RT their fundraiser.
Democracy Volunteers publish their May 2022 local elections report
Democracy Volunteers deployed more than 200 Electoral Commission accredited observers to more than 1,723 polling stations through the voting period. Observers noted significant levels of Family Voting in 25% of polling stations, i.e where one person has oversight or control of another person’s vote. Dr John Ault, Director of Democracy Volunteers, has since called on UK legislators to act to prevent the practice in polling stations. Read the full report or listen to the podcast.
Updates on the Democracy Network
The Democracy Network has gone live with their new Twitter this week so look out for lots of content and follow for news, updates and events. They’re also inviting people to fill in the Big Democracy Network survey and there’s even a £5 thank you voucher for doing so. It should take less than 10 ten minutes to fill out and your insights would be greatly appreciated by their team. In addition, the Democracy Messaging Workshop, led by Sortition Foundation, is now just a few days away on 18th July, you can sign up here.
Demos asks, how can we renew democracy?
Last week Demos hosted an event to discuss new ways of doing politics and policy making that listens more directly to people. During the event Marcial Boo, author of The Rules of Democracy, Polly Curtis, Interim Chief Executive, Demos and Björn Leví Gunnarsson, Icelandic Member of Parliament, gave their take on how we can revamp democracy and boost faith in politics. Head over to their YouTube channel for a recording of the event in case you missed it.
mySociety are looking for new board members
There are a number of vacancies currently going on the boards of mySociety and their subsidiary, SocietyWorks. They are looking for trustees, a new Treasurer and Non-Executive Directors to help steer the direction of the organisation. Check out their job page for more details on each of the roles.
Shared Future kickstarting new Local Climate Engagement (LCE) programme
Alongside Involve, UK100, DemSoc and Climate Outreach, Shared Future are working with local authorities across England to deliver high-quality public engagement projects on climate policy, as part of a new nationwide programme to train councils in engagement-driven climate policymaking. You can read about the project here. Shared Future are also hiring a Communication and Marketing Associate to help them get the word out (deadline 18th July).
Sheila McKechnie Foundation are hiring for multiple roles
SMK have been on a mission in recent years to become experts in social change exploring how change happens and championing civil society campaigners. If this mission resonates with you then check out their upcoming vacancies which include a new Operations and System Manager, Knowledge and Insight Manager, and Head of Programmes. All have a deadline for Monday 18th July.
Elect Her to hold webinar on the importance of lived experience in politics
On Thursday 21st July, Elect Her will host a women-only webinar to discuss how marginalised women have historically had a limited capacity to be politically active, and how we can begin to shift our mindset to recognise the importance of lived experience in politics. Speakers at the event will include MPs, councillors and activists who will discuss their own lived experiences, as well as how we can overcome the barriers to political participation for women with low or no income. Find out more.
New essay on ‘Platformation’ explores the potential behind changing organisational structures
A new essay from Koreo, in collaboration with Stephanie Sherman from design studio Supervisions, looks at how civil society organisations can redesign their structure to unlock individual and collective potential. The essay suggests that most organisations are restricted by hierarchical structures that consolidate power and in fact a more dynamic and on-going conversation about organisational forms is needed to unleash the power of civil society organisations. As well as the full essay, you can explore their motivations behind the project in this shorter summary of their work.
Check out all the highlights from this year’s Festival of Debate
The largest UK annual politics festival, The Festival of Debate, took place across April and May with a huge variety of speakers debating all things politics. The festival might be over but you can still catch a number of recordings of the events on their YouTube channel.
Liberty publish guide on how the right to protest is changing
The 28th of June saw several public order provisions on the right to protest come into effect as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. In response, Liberty has published this explainer on the main changes to protest law and what they mean for protesters.
Government legislates to allow agency workers to replace striking workers
Ministers have approved controversial plans to drastically reduce the impact of industrial action by allowing agency workers to fill the gaps during a strike. Critics of the plans say it is akin to a “scab charter”. As trade unions rely on the impact of withdrawing labour in order to bring employers to the table to secure pay deals and workers’ rights, these changes mark a significant shift of power away from working people.
Polly Toynbee and Alexandra Hall Hall debate the Future of the Monarchy
The Commission on Political Power recently published an ‘Options Paper’ examining six possible pathways for the future of the monarchy and head of state. They followed this up yesterday (12th July) with a public discussion between Polly Toynbee and Alexandra Hall Hall on the future of the British monarchy. Check them out on Twitter for updates on how the conversation went.
Integrity & Transparency
Government breaks precedent refusing Labour time to debate no-confidence motion
Downing Street has refused to allow parliamentary time for the motion it had tabled. Long standing convention is that, if the leader of the official opposition tables a motion of no confidence, the government makes time for it to be debated and voted on. Update: UK Government have now tabled a no-confidence vote in their own government.
Transparency International monitoring Tory leadership statements, reaching out to candidates
Rose Whiffen, Research Officer at Transparency International UK (TI UK), is calling on Conservative leadership candidates to commit to restoring trust in politics by defending both integrity in public life and national security. As Daniel Bruce, Chief Exec at TI UK, said:
“Britain’s reputation for the rule of law and stable, fair governance has long made us a reliable ally on the world stage and a safe place to do business. Hostile states have long sought to undermine these strengths by exploiting failures of integrity in Westminster and the City to influence our democracy and wash the proceeds of crime and corruption. With trust in politicians and democratic institutions severely dented, opportunities for malign actors will only increase unless standards are raised.
Index of Independent News Publishing 2022 launch
This year’s Index, conducted by Joe Mitchell and the team at Public Interest News Foundation, is the result of more than 72 surveys from across the independent news sector. The report found that local publishers face significant challenges around revenue, staffing costs and social media giants, but despite this — publishers manage to reach 39m people a year across the UK digitally, with a total print circulation of nearly 300,000. View the full report. In other news, Joe also published his review of PINFs leadership programme, bringing together 14 independent publishers.
Johnson leaves a severe public mistrust in politics, according to campaigners
Boris Johnson resigned as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday morning following a torrent of resignations from within his cabinet and the rest of the Conservative Party. Tom Brake, Director at Unlock Democracy, was one of a number of civil society campaigners to speak out saying ‘Johnson leaves a deeply damaging legacy for our democracy, with trust in politics at an all-time low, rocked by scandal, lies and rule-breaking.’ A number of other campaigners have called on the incoming prime minister to rebuild trust, and re-establish a sense of honesty and integrity in UK politics.
Honesty in Politics Bill introduced to Parliament
MP Liz Saville Roberts has introduced the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill to Parliament with the aim of preventing MPs from deliberately lying in parliament. MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, Greens, Alba, SDLP, and the SNP have all agreed to support the Bill and polling from Compassion in Politics suggests 3 in 4 members of the general public also support it. The Bill will have its second debate in October, and is supported by Compassion in Politics and Reform Political Advertising.
Whistleblower reveals Uber secretly lobbied top levels of government during expansion
The leak consists of emails, iMessages, WhatsApp exchanges and other data between senior Uber executives and at least six Tory ministers, including then Chancellor George Osborne. Ministers failed to declare secret meetings at which they were lobbied by Uber, the files reveal. Uber pushed UK politicians to influence then Mayor of London Boris Johnson into diluting minicab regulations, which were then dropped in Jan 2016. The covert meetings expose a series of lobbying loopholes in UK guidelines. Last year, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended that “the government should revise the categories of published information to close the loophole by which informal lobbying is not disclosed in departmental releases”.
Transparency International UK launch new research on the property interests of parliamentarians
The report published by TI UK, ‘Parliamentary Estates’, charts the scale, value and geographical distribution of property assets owned by Members of Parliament. The research reports finding a concentration of assets, investments and employment that is far in excess of what can be seen in the wider population. Relatedly, Unlock Democracy have started a petition to restrict MPs’ second jobs, view and share the petition via their site.
Minfo is looking for feedback on its initiatives to improve transparency and tackle dis/misinformation
CEO of Minfo, Roland Stori, is looking for feedback on their stealth dis/misinformation solution and Trust Index for persons of interest (politicians, news readers) and organisations of interest. If anyone is available to talk this over with Roland, please book a slot to chat via their daily calendar.
Constitution Unit podcast explores how constitutional and democratic standards can best be upheld
The Constitution Unit’s ‘State of the Constitution’ Conference took place in June exploring a range of political and constitutional issues. A new podcast taken from the first panel at the conference looks at how constitutional and democratic standards can best be upheld in a modern political era marked by democratic backsliding and parliamentary rule-breaking. Joined by politicians and academics, Professor Meg Russel chairs this discussion on whether norms of good and ethical behaviour can be maintained.
Voter ID introduction before May 2023 in doubt, lack of paper for snap GE polling cards, say AEA
Peter Stanyon of the Association of Electoral Administrators, representing election delivery staff across the UK, states that it is no longer possible to introduce Voter ID in May 2023 due to a lack of key policy details and secondary legislation yet to be published. Stanyon warns of systemic issues, disenfranchised voters and inconsistent application of new requirements should ministers push ahead with the current timetable ahead of next year’s elections. The AEA also highlight a lack of paper stockpiles for the production of ballots should a snap general election be called.
Conservative Leadership Election Policy Tracker
The consultancy PublicFirst have produced a comprehensive policy tracker for the Tory leadership election. View it here.
Labour MP Sam Tarry highlights reselection issues
All ten Ilford South local Labour Party branches have voted to ‘trigger’ the seat for reselection. As the sitting MP, Tarry will automatically be on the shortlist. The news comes just days after Apsana Begum MP, a fellow Corbynite, was also told she will face a contest after all bar-one of her local Labour branches voted to ‘trigger’ her. Mr Tarry, a former Shadow Minister under Jeremy Corbyn, has raised concerns over the process given historical allegations of electoral fraud, the expedited process and foregoing rigorous membership checks.
Devolved Democracy & Local Government
Pathways to Scottish Independence — new animation maps possible routes
Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to hold another referendum on Scottish Independence in October 2023. A new animation from the Centre on Constitutional Change maps the path to independence for Scotland, highlighting the likely steps and possible hurdles. Aileen McHarg, Professor of Public Law and Human Rights at Durham University, provides more in depth analysis on this here.
Are councils working? The Ferret publishes first in series on democracy and local councils
The Ferret has been running a series of investigations in collaboration with The Herald to shed light on the key issues surrounding local government, councils and democracy. A new article, ‘Are councils working?’, marks the first in the series with a number of other investigative pieces on the way. Follow The Ferret on Twitter for future updates in the series.
Bristol City Council announces it will only self-publish announcements
As the Bristol media boycott continues, Mayor Marvin Rees in refusing to back down now signals that the council will only publish announcements to its own websites and social media, rather than sending press releases. The boycott began after the authority decided to bar Bristol Post local democracy reporters Alex Seabrook and Adam Postans from his fortnightly briefings. Mr Rees claims the LDRs are not banned from the press conferences — instead insisting they are simply “not invited”.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says conditions for triggering a border poll on Northern Ireland should be clarified
The Constitution Unit’s Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland last year went into some detail on these complex issues. See the Twitter thread for the Unit’s response to Tánaiste Varadkar’s statement.
Inquiry into levelling up: submissions sought
The APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods is seeking written or video evidence across the Levelling Up White Paper’s policy focus areas and missions to support its Levelling Up inquiry. Submissions should assess the extent to which policy programmes align with the needs and aspirations of people living in ‘left behind’ areas, particular in light of challenges such as low levels of community capacity, depleted civic assets, and poor connectivity. You can access the submission page here.
Decentralisation of power from Holyrood
Campaigners, including Alison Payne, Research Director at Reform Scotland, and Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland, are calling for reform of Scotland’s local authorities following a series of reports that ‘have uncovered a host of worrying issues with the way our local democracy works’, they claim. Decentralisation of power from Holyrood, full devolution of local taxes and directly elected mayors are among the proposals made by campaigners and politicians pushing for reforms to local government in Scotland.
Citizen Network calls for greater public consultation on devolution from the Labour Party
Labour leader Keir Starmer set up the Labour Constitutional Commission in 2020 with the promise of a ‘new constitutional offer’, however little is known about its progress or which groups have since been consulted. In the absence of this public consultation, Citizen Network, along with other campaign groups and regional parties, have written an open letter to the Labour Party urging them to consider using “citizens’ assemblies and other forms of deliberative democracy to kickstart a national conversation about what kind of democratic settlement people would like to see.” If you would like to add your name to the letter please contact Gavin Barker.
Power Now Project launch report on ‘new power’ and what it means for governance
The Power Now Project is a collaboration between Compass and Labour Together exploring concepts of ‘new power’. Bringing together academics, politicians, tech-specialists, activists, community organisers and front-line workers, they have been looking at how the government can devolve power to create a partnership between the state and wider society that can transform the country. Join them on Monday 18th of July for the launch of their new report and the chance to discuss how governments can implement beneficial power-sharing arrangements.
Marta Wojciechowska asks: What is the role of the democratic megacity?
Writing in the Journal of Political Geography, Marta Wojciechowska, Lecturer in Politics at King’s College London, argues that large metropolises are engines of democratic and emancipatory potential. Find out more and follow Marta’s work here.
Democracy & Media
Conservative ministers tried to sway annual report to privatisation policy, claims Channel 4 head
Alex Mahon, Chief Executive of Channel 4, says the government tried to change the wording of the broadcaster’s annual report to fit its privatisation agenda. The controversial policy is opposed by Channel 4’s management and board, who — with their independent auditors, signed off on their annual report on 23rd May, but has yet to be made public. Mahon claims publication delays are due to DCMS’ attempts to alter the wording in line with government policy, he reported to the DCMS Select Committee.
Media Reform Coalition briefing: Public Interest Journalism — Funding & Labour Issues
A new Media Reform Coalition policy brief finds that the public service of journalism, crucial to democracy, is at risk of ‘total collapse’, that the majority of frontline reporters, particularly in the regions outside London, are likely to be living near the poverty line. A damning report of the industry, unsurprising to those with some familiarity of the sector, the work highlights the crucial and currently fragile work of public interest journalism crucial for democracy to function.
Funding of up to £5,000 available for Mutual Aid groups
The Social Change Nest CIC have teamed up with Changing Ideas to launch a UK Mutual Aid Fund. They are giving out grants of up to £5,000 to local mutual aid groups to develop their operations and continue serving the needs of their community. Funding will go towards upskilling members, creating greater operational capacity, supplying equipment, and more. Applications close on July 22nd.
ARTCRY recruiting funding decision panel
ARTCRY is a fund dedicated to responsive political art in the public realm. They are recruiting a panel of artists, activists and creatives to make decisions on applications for the next six months. If this sounds up your street, pop an email over to Kathryn Bllyard.
CIVICUS publish 2022 State of Civil Society Report
CIVICUS has just published its global 2022 State of Civil Society Report, looking at how civil society is responding to an increasing number of regressive and volatile forces. The report includes a chapter on global developments in democracy which suggests that democracy is under attack from a rising tide of military coups, right-wing populism and electoral misinformation. The report does also recognise however that important positive changes are still being won by civil society organisations.
Applications open to the World Forum for Democracy 2022 — Youth Delegation
Applications are now open for the World Forum for Democracy 2022 — Youth Delegation. The forum brings together global political decision-makers and activists to discuss the challenges facing democracies around the world, as well as explore experimental democratic initiatives and practices that can evolve democracy. Anyone aged 18–30 that is actively engaged in civil society democratic initiatives can apply (before August 2nd) for a place at this year’s conference which will take place this November in Strasbourg.
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 14 July: Trauma-informed content advisor [Portuguese & English] at Chayn (£290 fixed fee)
- Apply by 14 July: Senior Schools Coordinator at Young Citizens (£27k)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Open Deadline: Trustee at Speakers’ Corner Trust (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Legislative Director at Fairvote UK (£38–45k)
- Apply by 17 July: Senior Democratic Services Officer at Surrey Heath Borough Council (£35–39k)
- Apply by 18 July: Communications and Marketing Officer at Shared Future (£25k)
- Apply by 18 July: Knowledge and Insight Manager at Sheila McKechnie Foundation (£35k)
- Apply by 18 July: Operations & Systems Manager at Sheila McKechnie Foundation (£35k)
- Apply by 18 July: Project Administrator at Involve (£21–27k)
- Apply by 18 July: Head of Programmes at Sheila McKechnie Foundation (£45k)
- Apply by 18 July: Senior Democratic & Electoral Services Officer at Harrow Council (£32–43k)
- Apply by 18 July: Democratic Services Officer at Essex County Council (£30k pro rata)
- Apply by 19 July: Democratic Support Officer at Leicester City Council (£19–24k)
- Apply by 19 July: Project Coordinator at Young Citizens (£24k)
- Apply by 21 July: Senior Adviser — Policy at Local Government Association (£71k)
- Apply by 21 July: Democracy & Campaigns Manager at National Union of Students (£26–30k)
- Apply by 24 July: Participatory Democracy Coordinator at London Borough of Newham (£35–38k)
- Apply by 25 July: Research Fellow at Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability & Representation (£42–50k)
- Apply by 26 July: Account Executive at Delib (£45–55k)
- Apply by 26 July: Senior Investigative Editor at openDemocracy (£55k)
- Apply by 27 July: Senior Democratic Services Officer at Peterborough City Council (£32–36k)
- Apply by 27 July: Digital Organiser/Campaigner at Trades Union Congress (£44k)
- Apply by 31 July: Digital Communications Officer at Big Brother Watch (£30k)
- Apply by 31 July: Investigations Volunteer at Big Brother Watch (Voluntary)
- Apply by 31 July: Democratic Services Officer (Committees) at London Borough of Tower Hamlets (£41–44k)
- Apply by 1 August: Campaigns Assistant/ Creative Campaigner at The Small Axe (£26–29k/£29–37k)
- Apply by 8 August: Trustees and Non-Executive Directors at mySociety (Voluntary)
- Apply by 8 August: Senior Organiser at Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (£27k pro rata)
- Apply by 8 August: Treasurer at mySociety (Voluntary)
- Apply by 19 August: Digital Campaigns Coordinator at Shout Out UK (£22k)
Unsalaried job listings #ShowTheSalary
- Open Deadline: Business Development Manager at College Green Group
- Open Deadline: Senior Account Director/Senior Campaign Director at College Green Group
- Open Deadline: Product Ambassador — London Area at Modern Democracy
- Open Deadline: Product Ambassador — North England at Modern Democracy
- Apply by 15 July: Local Democracy Reporter at Reach PLC
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.
See you next time, add to your calendar
James, Molly, Max, Pilar and The Centre for Democracy team