UK Democracy Bulletin, 15th June 2022

Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding, Molly Hudson, Max Roche and Pilar Girvan of The Centre for Democracy. Read by 400+ 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

  • Police Bill Alliance former convenor reflects on coalition campaigning
  • Democracy Network to launch in autumn 2022
  • Votes for Schools reach 1 million votes milestone
  • Compassion in Politics campaign to end deliberate lying in parliament gains traction
  • Scottish Government announce new campaign for scottish independence

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Josh Russell — Co founder at Forward Democracy, Kathleen Christie — Former Police Bill Alliance Convenor, Myf Nixon — Communications Manager at mySociety, Peter Keeling — Voting Information at Democracy Club, Gavin Barker — Lead on Democratic Reform at Citizen Network, Pilar Girvan — Communications and Advocacy Officer at Involve, Sam Welsh — Partnerships Coordinator at Votes for Schools, Titus Alexander — Democracy Matters, Colin Gordon — Grassroots for Europe, Oli Whittington — Nesta, Alex King — Comms & Marketing Associate at Shared Future CIC and Andrew Gray — Founder at Crowd Wisdom Project.

Sign the Ecosystem Pledge

The Ecosystem Pledge is a statement of intent, now backed by 72 signatory organisations from across the democracy sector, including Involve, Unlock Democracy, mySociety and 50:50 Parliament. Together, we pledge:

We are individuals and organisations working to improve democracy in the UK. We acknowledge that there are many other organisations working towards the same goal. We believe that, if we want things to change, we need to start talking to each other more.

If you would like to add you and your organisation’s name to the list of signatories, please email pledge@centrefordemocracy.org.uk.

Upcoming Legislation

Line-by-line scrutiny begins on Online Safety Bill

Carnegie UK’s submission to the Online Safety Bill Committee has now been published, alongside evidence from a wide array of civil society and tech representatives covering topics from protection of children, consumers, women and girls, through to democratic harms and journalism exemptions. The Chair of the Joint Human Rights Committee, Harriet Harman, has written to the Secretary of State for DCMS to ask for clarification on a number of points relating to the definitions and scope of illegal content, “legal but harmful” and the protections for freedom of expression.

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.

Sign on — Briefing on strengthening privacy and anonymity protections in the Online Safety Bill

Ellen Judson from Demos has shared a new briefing on the Online Safety Bill, if you would like to sign on please send Ellen your organisation’s logo by COB Wednesday 15th June.

Liberty poll finds strong opposition to increasing police powers

The government is going against the grain of public opinion, according to Liberty, with plans to introduce the Public Order Bill. Polling carried out by nfpResearch for Liberty found that 68% of the public think the government should tackle root causes of crime rather than expand police powers and 73% think the police should not use tactics that discriminate against people of colour. Liberty are also looking to hire a new Digital Content Assistant to support their Human Rights Act campaign #SaveYourRights.

Save the date, 13th July — Civil society drinks in Central London

Details to follow.

Democracy Sector

It’s time to shake up coalition campaigning, says former convenor of Police Bill Alliance

Kathleen Christie, Convenor of the Police Bill Alliance through the Bill’s turbulent passage, reports back on their learnings at the helm of the coalition. The Police Bill Alliance comprised some 350 organisations working to obstruct and oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Democracy Network round up

On Wednesday 25th May 2022, the Democracy Network held its second ‘Development Day’ where members discussed key decisions on the direction of the network. Productive discussions around vision, mission, values and membership criteria are now being taken forward to be decided in advance of the major in-person public launch in autumn 2022. The network is also working on launching their social media channels and website for a digital public launch in the next few weeks.

Spend a day working alongside fellow democracy organisations

On June 29th, The Centre for Democracy are hosting a Democracy Co-Working Day at Newspeak House in London. Our first co-working day was such fun — with more than 20 organisations joining to hang out and work together — that we’re putting on another one. Don’t miss out, RSVP now to give us a better idea of numbers on the day and add a calendar reminder.

Votes for Schools hiring, reach 1 million votes across UK

Votes for Schools’ Partnerships Coordinator, Sam Welsh, reports that they have recently passed a major milestone of over 1,000,000 votes held in schools and colleges across the country. VfS are on the lookout for a Partnerships & Impact Manager, see more details here — deadline Wednesday 29th June.

Swap My Vote is back, crowdfunder launched

Josh Russell and the team at Swap My Vote have launched a new crowdfunder. As the summer by-elections approach, they’re looking to boost their impact, spreading the word via more channels, targeting local media and securing mainstream coverage of vote swapping. Give generously and share their crowdfunding appeal now.

Titus Alexander reflects on the work of the Democracy Matters coalition

Democracy Matters was set up in 2009 by Titus Alexander and a wider group of volunteers and partner organisations, including Unlock Democracy, Sheila McKechnie Foundation, the WEA, Involve and others. In this draft document, Titus reflects on the work of the coalition and how we can learn from it.

RebootGB are working on a new Alliance UK project

Alliance UK, a grouping of several democracy organisations, are aiming to bring together civil society actors, including the democracy community, to work out the aims and goals of a potential Progressive Alliance.

Democracy Club are looking for a new CEO

Big changes at Democracy Club as they look for a new CEO to help them grow their reach into services that support everyday democracy. Democracy Club are also looking for a Python Developer to help improve their services ahead of the elections in May 2023. Deadlines for both roles are June 30th and there is a £500 referral bonus if you refer someone that ends up getting the job, so make sure you share far and wide!

The State of the Constitution: Constitution Unit Conference 2022, 22–23 June

In partnership with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) and the Oxford Constitutional Leaders Forum, The Constitution Unit has announced its annual State of the Constitution conference. Free to attend and continuing to take place virtually, the programme touches upon Brexit and the NI Protocol, the Johnson Government’s approach to constitutional standards, the role of the courts, the decline of parliamentary scrutiny and the future of devolution — a packed schedule for a period of growing constitutional tension and unease. Book your ticket now.

Journal of Democracy release 10 free papers from Co-founder Larry Diamond

The Journal of Democracy are marking the departure of co-founder Larry Diamond by releasing ten of his seminal contributions to the journal. Over a thirty-year period, Diamond penned numerous articles covering a wide range of democratic theory so be sure to check out these free papers as they are only available for a limited time.

New Local hiring for multiple roles

New Local are looking to hire a new Head of Policy and Research (23rd June deadline), Network Coordinator (June 29th deadline), Head of Network (30th June deadline) and a Head of Events (5th July deadline). Check out their job board for full details on all roles and how to apply.

Network for Police Monitoring and Article 11 Trust to hire Organising and Partnerships Coordinator

Netpol and the Article 11 Trust are looking for an Organising and Partnerships Coordinator to challenge and monitor the impact of the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Act on the right to protest. The role will involve documenting the use of police power and creating campaign materials to promote the aims of the project. Deadline for applications is June 27th.

Institute for Government host event on ‘Reinvigorating UK Democracy’

Earlier this week the Institute for Government hosted an event discussing how we can bridge the divide between citizens and representatives to include people more directly in decisions that affect their lives and communities. Sarah Castell, CEO of Involve, was joined by Miriam Levin, Programme Director at Engage Britain, Professor Jane Suiter, Director of Dublin City University’s Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society, and Oli Whittington, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, Nesta, to explore some of the digital and political technologies that could reinvigorate our democracy.

First candidate comes forward for deputy leadership of the Green Party

Zack Polanksi, a London Assembly member since 2021, has announced they’re standing for position. Polanski’s pitch in the election focuses heavily on driving the party forward to achieve more representation in the House of Commons and in local government, as well committing to ‘embed diverse representation’ within the Green Party as a whole. A number of other candidates are expected to announce their intention in the next few days. Nominations for the deputy leader election close on June 30, with members voting throughout the summer.

Democratic Reform

A flawed systems means a sense of fair play is missing in local elections, says Keith Best

Keith Best, Chairman of Conservative Action for Electoral Reform and a former Conservative MP, writes in Conservative Home on the impact of First Past The Post on electoral outcomes in local elections. Where Conservatives are gaining as much as 25% of the vote, such as in the borough of Oadby and Wigston, but only receiving 7% of the seats, a sense of fair play is missing. Local elections in England should be placed under review, argues Best, citing that ‘more competition is needed to drive up England’s democratic standards’. Well worth a read.

Shared Future CIC wins award

Their Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury, which they facilitated — led by Shared Future Associate Andy Paice — last year on behalf of the Northern Housing Consortium, was named Best Resident Involvement Initiative at this year’s Northern Housing Awards.

Councils for PR campaign gets off to a good start

On 23rd of May, Make Votes Matter and Get PR Done launched their Councils for PR campaign which aims to get local councils to back the shift to proportional representation. The event was attended by 195 people and C4PR report that their core group has nearly doubled to 22 members off the back of the launch. Email C4PR if you would also like to join the group, or follow them on Twitter for future updates from the campaign.

Add your organisation to Citizen Network’s Constitution Commission Public Letter

Back in December 2020 Gordon Brown reported that he had brought together Scottish and Welsh labour leaders and English mayors to work on a ‘new constitutional offer’. Citizen Network’s public letter calls on Brown to divulge new information about the commission, and in particular, calls on Brown and the commission to consider utilising citizens’ assemblies where possible. If you/your organisation supports the devolution aims set out in the public letter, please consider signing it. Citizen Network are particularly keen on enlisting regional and local grassroots movements who see democratic reform as part of their key aims.

Crowd Wisdom Project reports back on Pol.is conversations

Crowd Wisdom is a non-profit organisation specialising in the use of the Pol.is platform survey communities and to answer difficult questions. They have run over 30 Pol.is conversations, including 20 for just one area — Harrogate. Building on their experience with the Harrogate District Consensus project, Crowd Wisdom are now looking to franchise their model and increase the number of areas that can host Pol.is conversations in this way.

Citizens’ Panel deliberates home energy use and climate change

A Birmingham Citizens’ Panel is currently debating what the government and public can do to take action on climate change in their homes. The sessions have been administered by Shared Future CIC on behalf of Lancaster University and the Climate Change Committee who will use the findings to advise the government on policies to bring energy use in line with the need to tackle climate change.

Participatory Budgeting Champions

A new SCQF Level 5 qualification — PB Champion — is now available to 750 young people to become PB champions in Fife, Scotland. Free places will be made available to those participants volunteering with PB and/or grant making processes in Scotland.

PB Scotland launches Green PB

Green PB aims to get people to make direct decisions about how budgets are spent, addressing climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.

Campaign to end deliberate lying by MPs is raised in parliament

A campaign has been launched by Compassion in Politics with over 200,000 signatures in support of new laws to prevent politicians from deliberately lying. Working with lawyers the group has drawn up a Lying in Politics Bill that would address accountability and trust in the House of Commons. Debbie Abrahams MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Group for Compassion in Politics, recently raised the campaign in parliament calling for legislation that would “make lying to this House and to the people of this country, a sackable offence.”

Rob Ford makes the argument for why workers should back PR

British trade unions should back PR, argues University of Manchester political science professor, Rob Ford. Rob charts the growth of the PR cause within the trade union movement and its subsequent impact on similar political systems, such as New Zealand.

Support for British monarchy eroding, YouGov poll finds

According to a recent poll from YouGov, six in ten Britons (62%) think Britain should keep the monarchy, while just 22% say they want to transition to an elected head of state. Just 9% of Conservative voters think the monarchy should be replaced with an elected head of state compared to 37% of Labour voters, whilst 31% of 18–24 year olds also want to see the monarchy abolished. Although support for the continuation of the monarchy remains strong, YouGov highlight that the overall figure of 62% has come down from 75% in 2012.

Make Votes Matter identify 213 ‘Stale Seats’ since beginning of Queen’s reign

MVM have identified 213 ‘Platinum Stale Seats’ that have been represented by the same political party since the Queen became the ruling monarch 70 years ago. Commonly dubbed ‘safe seats’, equal votes campaigners argue that these seats stifle democracy by silencing voters and creating “a class of politicians who think they are above the scrutiny of voters.”

UK ranked 20th in Europe for electoral integrity

The Electoral Integrity Project have been researching the integrity and transparency of global elections to produce a set of regional rankings. Electoral integrity is assessed by experts in each country based on a series of metrics including electoral laws, electoral procedures, media coverage and campaign finance. The UK was ranked 20th in Europe for electoral integrity and 25th out of 35 liberal democracies. The US was the worst-ranked liberal democracy for electoral integrity.

Johnson survives no-confidence vote, but new rules could mandate another vote within the year

Monday 6th of June saw Johnson narrowly win a vote of no confidence in his leadership — 211 votes for 148. This ‘decisive’ endorsement of his leadership, to use the Prime Minister’s words, could however prove short-lived. Current rules dictate that a year of immunity is afforded to any leader that survives a vote of no confidence, but Chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, has refused to rule out a change that would cut the period of immunity to six months.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Nicola Sturgeon formally launches fresh campaign for Scottish independence

Yesterday Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted she planned to hold another independence poll before the end of 2023, remarking “Scots are ready to separate”. The first ‘scene setter’ paper was released yesterday outlining the Scottish government’s plans for independence. Sturgeon has claimed she will proceed with a vote even without a Section 30 Order temporarily providing the Scottish Government with powers reserved to the UK Government.

Mumsnet open letter calls on the Government to allow hybrid working for councillors and councils in England

As the country went into lockdown in 2020, so too did councils and councillors, shifting to remote and hybrid forms of working. With the easing of COVID-19 the UK Government forced councils to return to physical meetings and proceedings, to the chagrin of those with accessibility requirements, children and those who had become used to the benefits that working from home brings. 87% of councillors want a return to more accessible ways of working. Sign the open letter here.

Devolution, Levelling-up and Local Leadership — In conversation with Andy Burnham on 21st June

The Institute For Government is hosting a series of events on devolution and levelling up with local leaders across England. On 21st of June, Andy Burnham will be hosted by Akash Paun, Senior Fellow at the Institute, to discuss the powers he wants to see devolved as part of the government’s Levelling Up agenda. There will be opportunities to put questions the mayor and attendees can join in person in Manchester or online via a livestream of the event.

Democracy & Media

£10k funding for literature review of research into media/information literacy

The Media and Information Literacy Alliance have opened a call for proposals. Find out more and apply here.

New initiative from Public Interest News Foundation to tackle underrepresentation in the media

A report from the Edelman Trust has found that just 35% of people in Britain trust the media, whilst the NCTJ reports that 92% of the media come from white ethnic backgrounds. In a bid to build a more representative, inclusive and trustworthy media, PINF have launched a Transformation Programme which will offer work placements to aspiring journalists from under-represented backgrounds. Check out updates from the scheme via their Twitter.

IPPR to hold convention on creating a citizen-serving media

On Wednesday 13th July IPPR will host an in-person conference in London bringing together senior figures from across the media to explore the current challenges facing the sector and how a citizen-serving media could be shaped from the crises. Expect lots of opportunities for participation through interactive sessions, and networking breaks to connect after two years of virtual Oxford Media Conventions.

‘The Art of Going Viral’ — with Owen Williams and the Democracy Network

Owen Williams, formerly Head of Social Media at BBC One and now Managing Director at Siml, will be leading an online session on ‘The Art of Going Viral: Your guide to social exposure and engagement’ on 28th June from 10.30am — 12.45pm. The event is being hosted by the Democracy Network as part of their growing programme of events, workshops and training. Register here to attend and please note places are limited so grab your tickets now!

Hacked Off launch ‘Leveson Defence Fund’

Plans to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 have been interpreted by Hacked Off as an assault on press freedom. According to CEO, Nathan Sparkes, “Section 40 was designed to shield regulated newspapers from costly lawsuits brought by the rich and the powerful, it is the only way to guarantee the freedom and accountability of the press”. In response, they have launched a ‘Leveson Defence Fund’ to shore up the current system for another two years until there exists a government “prepared to end corruption between politicians and the press, and act in the interests of the public.”

We Own It push back against the privatisation of Channel 4

Jesse Norman, a former Minister and sitting Conservative MP, came out against Boris Johnson this week in relation to the proposed privatisation of Channel 4. Believing that the government’s efforts to privatise the channel show they don’t have their priorities in order he noted “privatisation of Channel 4 is an unnecessary and provocative attempt to address a political non-issue during a time of crisis, at significant cost to the independent UK film and TV industry”. We Own It are pushing back against the policy and are inviting others to do the same. You can join the push back here.

And Finally…

Best for Britain want your lockdown stories

As Johnson tries to draw a line in the sand under the law-breaking that went on in Downing Street, Best for Britain has other ideas. In the wake of the Sue Gray report, they’ve taken to Twitter asking the public to share their lockdown stories to draw contrast between the sacrifices made by the country whilst Number 10 indulged in a boozy culture of partying and rule-breaking.

Release the bats!

mySociety’s freedom of information service WhatDoTheyKnow sees its largest ever release of information — and it’s not what you might expect. National Highways has released 1.25TB of bat survey data, made up over 115,000 files. Requester Emma Tristam is using the data to campaign against the proposed Arundel Bypass that threatens an area of international importance for bats.

New podcast explores stories of togetherness and civic innovation

Onward have teamed up with The Cares Family to create a new podcast called Building Belonging. The podcast will explore stories of civic innovators and the institutions they’re building to overcome disconnection and isolation within communities. With different guests each week the podcast will look at the relationship between these innovators and those in power to explore mechanisms for unlocking the potential of communities.

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 #ShowTheSalary

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

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Centre for Democracy

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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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