UK Democracy Bulletin, 16th March 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. 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

  • Democracy Co-Working Day join us on the 23rd March at Newspeak House
  • Online Safety Bill coalition in the works
  • UK Democracy Fund looking to fund ideas on broadening participation in elections
  • Voter ID govt indicates openness to new forms of ID
  • May elections toolkits, hustings and more
  • SMK report finds campaigning climate becoming increasingly hostile

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Carrie Deacon — Senior Advisor at UK Democracy Fund, Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters, Myfanwy Nixon — Communications Manager at mySociety, Sam at Votes for Schools, Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent, Kyle Taylor — Director at Fair Vote UK, Shaun Roberts — Head of Campaigns & Digital at Unlock Democracy, Oli Whittington — Researcher at Nesta, Peter Keeling — Voting Information at Democracy Club, Perry Walker at Talk Shop, Hannah Stevens — Chief Executive at Elect Her, Oli Walkden — Communications Coordinator at Young Citizens.

Elections & Policing Bill

Democracy Defence Coalition is full speed ahead on Elections Bill, reports Kyle Taylor

Remaining committee dates are the 15th and 17th March, with the coalition pushing key amendments — you can view the amendments tabled so far. Kyle Taylor, Director at Fair Vote UK, says the government is getting dangerously close to running out of parliamentary time before prorogation, so a tactic at this stage is to introduce as many amendments as possible and ensure they are all vigorously debated!

Michael Gove questioned by PACAC, door is open for more types of voter ID

Dr. Elisabeth Pop highlights Michael Gove’s recent grilling by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), which raised the prospect of government being open to more types of voter ID than those currently in the works.

Online Safety Bill coalition in the works

Kyle Taylor also reports that the Online Safety Bill (OSB) is building up steam, and with the invasion of Ukraine disinformation and the media lens are back in focus — Fair Vote will be co-steering a coalition around that bill also — stay tuned for more info on that. If you haven’t already, sign this open letter on the Online Safety Bill calling on the Culture Secretary to back a more robust OSB.

Policing Bill moves into parliamentary ping pong

The Policing Bill has been the subject of major political contention in recent weeks. Following attempts by MPs to reinstate a number of measures rejected in the House of Lords, the bill is now in ping-pong. For more analysis of the bill and its implications on democratic rights, check out the following blog from the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) — Resisting the Police Bill.

Russia-Ukraine War

UK faith leaders ask the government to rethink ‘discriminatory’ borders bill

Over 1000 faith leaders from across the UK have asked the government to amend the proposals laid out in the Police and Borders Bill. The government has already been criticised for a lacklustre approach to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, and faith leaders are now warning that those arriving via irregular routes to the UK could be criminalised rather than protected. The Bill is currently in the report stage in the House of Lords.

Titus Alexander is working to encourage and support Russians seeking independent news resources

They are using all manner of ways to evade the Russian media lockdown and censorship, from posting questions to Google Maps reviews, to emailing schools, businesses etc and encouraging others to reach out any way they can. For more information see this Google Doc.

MPs push through Economic Crime Bill to intensify sanctions on Russian oligarchs

Economic sanctions facing Russian oligarchs are set to intensify following the fast-tracked Economic Crime Bill that passed its third reading late Monday night. The long-awaited bill will allow the government to more rapidly sanction Russian oligarchs and firms by allowing them to automatically sanction anyone who has had assets frozen by the EU, US or Canada. The bill now passes to the House of Lords.

War in Ukraine highlights need for democratic unity to combat kleptocracy

Oliver Bullough has launched a working paper for the International Forum For Democratic Studies warning of the threat posed by transnational kleptocracy. In their paper: ‘An Offshore Cold War: Forging a Democratic Alliance to Combat Transnational Kleptocracy’, they suggest we need greater collaboration amongst democracies to tackle the networked nature of transnational kleptocracy.

National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds volunteer action in Ukraine

A wave of volunteers has mobilised in Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian Volunteer Service (UVS) has been connecting activists across the country since 2017 and promoting opportunities for democratic community engagement. Within days of the outbreak of war, UVS had “200,000 caring people ready to help and connect”.

Russian visits to BBC news increase by 225%

The BBC Russian news website has seen a surge in use following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Given the state’s regulation of information and heavy-handed propaganda, increasing numbers have looked to the BBC for more impartial reporting. BBC director-general Tim Davie commented saying “we will continue giving the Russian people access to the truth, however we can.”

Elections

UK Democracy Fund looking to fund ideas around broadening electoral participation

Carrie Deacon, Senior Advisor at the UK Democracy Fund, is eager to get in touch with people working on ideas to grow the number registered and participating in the next General Election, particularly those who don’t currently participate in elections. The Fund has recently released its funding priorities in a Funding Framework, alongside their next three funding deadlines, on the 16th May, 22nd August and 31st October 2022. If you think you have an idea that could help the Fund reach their goal of one million more voters taking part in the next election, get in touch with Carrie.

Democracy Classroom kicks off new Election Countdown programme

Starting this week, Harriet Andrews and the team at Democracy Classroom are releasing resources week by week up until the election. To access these resources sign up for their weekly updates — don’t miss out!

What’s up for election in 2022, Democracy Club asks

Peter Keeling and the team at Democracy Club have counted all the seats up for grabs this May. They’re also recording all hustings events, which will be promoted on WhoCanIVoteFor. If you’re running an event, or know of one, report it to DC via this form.

Elect Her preparing election toolkit

Hannah Stevens, Chief Executive at Elect Her, and the team, are designing a toolkit for women to support local candidates, engage in hustings and GOTV. They’re also supporting more than 50 women candidates with peer support, skills training and advice.

Democracy Sector

Celebrate our first anniversary with a Democracy Co-Working Day!

It’s been over one year since we launched the Centre for Democracy. In that year we’ve held more than thirty meetups and published as many of these Bulletins. Now physical events are a real possibility, we’d like to celebrate by inviting you to a day of co-working together with other democracy folks at Newspeak House in East London. If you’d like to join, please register here to give us an idea of numbers — looking forward to seeing you there!

Centre for Democracy welcomes new Research Assistant Max Roche to the team

Max joined the team last week and will be helping to compose future bulletins (including this one!) alongside James Moulding and Molly Hudson. Welcome Max!

Big changes at mySociety

mySociety appoints interim Chief Executive, Louise Crow, following news that Chief Executive Mark Cridge is soon to move on. Having led the organisation for more than seven years, Mark Cridge has played a key role in it’s recent successes. We wish Mark every success in their future adventures. This now means that mySociety is a women-led and woman-majority organisation for the first time in its history.

Act Build Change publish guidance on hybrid organising

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, vulnerable and cautious members of the community may feel themselves locked out of events. As a result many groups are turning to hybrid events as a halfway-house solution. Act Build Change have published a series of reflections on how to plan, prepare and deliver a hybrid event following their first community meet-up. Relatedly, the campaign #KeepFestivalsHybrid is seeking to ensure that events continue to consider remote accessibility for disabled and vulnerable people.

Compass are looking for Board Members

Compass are seeking Board Members to join them from Spring 2022. Board Members will be in charge of overseeing the legal, financial and strategic direction of the organisation and supporting their efforts to shape a more democratic society. Check out the job listing for more information.

Activate to announce winners of grants for women in politics

This spring Activate will give out two grants supporting women’s engagement in politics. Teaming up with Elect Her through their Equip Her partnership, the first grant covers the personal and campaigning costs for political candidates preparing themselves for the elections in May. The second funding scheme helps women activists tackle issues in their local area. Activate are in the final stages of awarding the grants so be sure to follow them on Twitter for updates on who’s won.

Join Unlock Democracy for an event recalling the Great Reform Act

This Wednesday 16th March Shaun Roberts and the team at Unlock Democracy will be joined in conversation by Nan Sloane, the author of Uncontrollable Women. Together they’ll be discussing the importance of the Great Reform Act of 1932 and what we can learn from it. Register your ticket here.

Votes for Schools hosting 2022 Student Voice Awards in April

You can find out more about the awards on their website, or contact lizzy@votesforschools.com.

Grab your early bird ticket now for RADIX Big Tent Ideas Festival, Bristol June 11th

Big Tent Ideas are back! Well known for their annual festivals composed of rich discussions and workshops involving those from across the UK political spectrum, they’ve been on pause since the pandemic hit and have now teamed up with think tank Radix. For a taster of their events, they’ve got an event on the Northern Ireland Protocol coming up later this month. Register now for your Big Tent Ideas Festival early bird ticket.

Liberty publishes free guide ‘I Know My Rights’

According to Liberty, the government’s new Bill of Rights will water down the rights of British citizens. In response they have published a free guide outlining our fundamental rights as citizens.

Newspeak House hosts event on digital tools for public participation
Newspeak House, the London College of Political Technology, is hosting an event on digital participation on March 30th. The evening will include a series of short talks from Colin Megill, Co-founder of Pol.is, Sarah Castell, CEO at Involve, Oliver Whittington, Researcher at Nesta, Simon Parker, Director of Transformation and Policy Capability at the Department for Education, and Akshaya Satheesh, Developer at the Centre for Analysis of Social Media at Demos. Be sure to register for what promises to be a fascinating series of talks and a great opportunity to network with others working in this space.

Nesta event explores reimagining democracy and our role as citizens

Topping off the month, Nesta have organised a conversation between Claudia Chwalisz, Innovation Citizen Participation Lead at the OECD, and Jon Alexander, Co-Founder of the New Citizenship Project and author of Citizens. The event will explore the emergence of the ‘citizen narrative’, alongside innovative participatory and deliberatory methods, and how these are changing the way we respond to challenges — and the multiple compounding crises we now face. Register your free ticket for the lunch time event.

Electoral Reform Society report urges greater devolution in England

England continues to typify a ‘Westminster knows best approach’ to national governance putting it at odds with much of the rest of Europe. This heavy centralisation also goes against the steady devolution of power seen across the UK over the last two decades. In a new report titled Democracy Made in England, the Electoral Reform Society sets out proposals for how to strengthen local democracy as well as a framework for how power could be decentralised.

Green New Deal UK launch their Rising Leadership Programme

Green New Deal UK has opened applications for their Rising Leadership Programme which is a fully-funded 6-month training programme for 40 people aged 18–30. The initiative is a chance to gain vital campaigning skills and will set the foundation for a new generation of climate leaders.

Young Citizens running their Big Legal Lesson, panel event on legal education

Every year, Young Citizens, a charity specialising in the delivery of citizenship programmes and designing teaching resources for primary and secondary schools, runs their Big Legal Lesson. The Big Legal Lesson is their hallmark campaign to get teachers delivering at least one lesson on the law and rights. On the 17th, they’ve also organised a panel event on the importance of legal education in schools, with I. Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society and other legal experts.

Call out for participation in project on climate citizen assemblies

Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA) are looking to create more knowledge and guidance on how we can implement climate citizens assemblies. They have commissioned four ‘Knowledge Development Projects’ and are looking for input from organisations or individuals that want to take part in producing knowledge on this topic.

Renew teams up with Gina Miller’s True and Fair Party

Renew has teamed up with Gina Miller’s True and Fair Party to combat what they see as our ‘increasingly corrupt’ and ‘outmoded’ political system. They will be focussing on cleaning up politics and arguing the case for proportional representation.

IMPRESS appoints Richard Ayre as new Chair

Richard Ayre will become the new Chair of IMPRESS. They take over from Walter Merricks CBE, who has led the IMPRESS board for the last seven years since its creation.

Byline Festival returns 29th April — 1st May in London

Byline Festival is back in April to host what promises to be an exciting set of panel discussions with investigative journalists, whistleblowers, authors, specialists and first-person voices. Topics will cover everything including current affairs, rights and equality, the culture wars, the climate crisis and more.

Integrity & Transparency

Sheila McKechnie Foundation Report suggests campaigning climate becoming increasingly hostile

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) have published their annual temperature check on the state of UK campaigning and the results make for grim reading. Their survey of 118 national campaigners found that 79% said attitudes from politicians towards civil society campaigning had become more negative over the last year — up from 63% in 2020.

Parliament websites activate bot-protection measures causing issues for civic tech activists

Matthew Somerville at mySociety notes that with Parliament adding Cloudflare technology to their websites, it makes it that much harder for web scrapers to extract vital information from parliamentary sites. If you’re having trouble accessing the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and other sites, see Matt’s short blog on the issue.

Health and Care Bill prompts fears over lack of scrutiny, campaigners say

A coalition of organisations including Reboot GB, EveryDoctor, Open Britain and Nurses United have penned an open letter to parliamentarians outlining why the Health and Care Bill represents a threat to public health institutions. They claim the bill, if passed unamended, would give ministers unprecedented power to control the direction of the healthcare system with reduced scrutiny.

And Finally…

Words to Win

Are you interested in all things election turnout? Shaun Roberts of Unlock Democracy recommends this podcast episode on how the Democrats nabbed Georgia in 2020.

Climate activism to reach fever pitch in coming months

Hot on the heels of Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil — a new direct action movement rumoured to be blockading oil refineries across the UK, are readying themselves for their debut direct action in the first few weeks of April. Following that, Extinction Rebellion’s latest Rebellion will kick off hot on their heels. Just in time for a new coalition of climate orgs, led by Zero Hour — to mark the third anniversary since Parliament declared a climate emergency, calling on the government to accelerate their efforts at decarbonisation.

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 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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