UK Democracy Bulletin, 18th May 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 300+ 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

  • Online Safety Bill new office hours
  • Police Bill Alliance wraps up
  • Future of Democracy conference this Saturday
  • Councils for PR launch next week
  • PR funding surge JRRT award £450,000 to PR campaigns
  • Sinn Féin set to reestablish Executive

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters, Simon Duffy — Director at Citizens Network, Pilar Girvan — Communications & Advocacy Officer at Involve/Democracy Network, Sam Welsh — Partnerships Coordinator at Votes for Schools, Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent and Rebecca Deegan — Founder at I Have A Voice.

Sign the Ecosystem Pledge

With just over a year since we launched the Centre for Democracy, it is one year since we launched the Ecosystem Pledge, now backed by 71 signatory organisations, 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

Sign up for new Online Safety Bill Office Hours

Similar to the previous Election Bill Office Hours, the team at Fair Vote are running weekly office hours to bring together organisations and individuals working on the Online Safety Bill. Email Matt Gallagher to join the mailing list and RSVP for the sessions.

Online Safety Bill key points:

Police Bill Alliance comes to an end

As the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act passes into law, the Police Bill Alliance is dissolving. The Police Bill Alliance coordinated over 350 organisations through their mailing list and coordination sessions, organising protests, op-eds, mobilising academia, businesses, former police officers, diplomats, parliamentarians and even ex-Prime Ministers — including a petition backed by more than 800,000 people. They succeeded in dragging out the Bill for 14 months and kicking some of the government’s plans into the long grass. With the new Public Order Bill announced during the Queen’s Speech, will the Alliance pause its dissolution and refocus on the new threat?

New Public Order Bill extends protest suppression provisions

Introduced in the Queen’s Speech, The Public Order Bill has been interpreted as an attack on the climate movement. The Bill introduces measures to criminalise key protest tactics such as ‘locking-on’, alongside new criminal offences for obstructing major transport networks and interfering with national infrastructure. Green groups have decried the move.

Defending the Right to Boycott

Friends of the Earth, Liberty, Quakers in Britain and others have signed a joint statement defending the Right to Boycott, in light of expected legislation to prevent public bodies from making decisions ‘counter to UK foreign policy’. It is expected that the Bill’s remit will encompass local government and both the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Netpol launch Defend Dissent campaign in response to PCSC Act

With the passage of the Police Bill giving police significant new powers to suppress demonstrations, the Network for Police Monitoring have launched their ‘Defend Dissent’ campaign to support grassroots groups and find new ways of challenging the Act “in the courts and on the streets”. They have also published a new guide to police surveillance detailing how protest movements can stay safe in the face of increased police intelligence gathering.

Bill of Rights to hit minority groups hardest according to campaigners

Plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights ‘will hit marginalised communities hardest’ according to Liberty Director, Martha Spurrier, and will have wide-reaching ramifications on Black and ethnic minority rights who ‘already face huge disparities in the criminal justice system’, according to The Runnymede Trust.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill promises to expand devolution settlement

Introduced with the aim of bolstering struggling regions and rebalancing regional inequality, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill promises to expand the existing devolution settlement throughout England to ‘every part of England that wants a strong devolution deal’.

Democracy Sector

Online workshop: Better collaboration between academics and democracy practitioners

Prof. Graham Smith of the University of Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy and George Bolton at the Centre for Democracy, are running the second of two half-day workshops to help develop the tools and guidance needed for building long-lasting productive cross-sectoral relationships. You do not need to have participated in the first workshop to attend the second. Register your interest.

Sheffield talks the Future of Democracy

On 21st May at Sheffield Town Hall, Democracy Network, Citizen Network, Neighbourhood Democracy Movement, and so many more, are coming together to shine a light on our democratic futures. To top off the day, Dr Simon Duffy, President of the Citizen Network, will be speaking alongside Jackie Weaver and New Citizenship Project thinker Jon Alexander.

Democracy Drinks Sheffield, following the Future of Democracy Hub Day

Following on from the Future of Democracy Hub Day on 21st May, the Democracy Network will be hosting Democracy Drinks Sheffield at the Showroom Cinema (5.30–7pm). This is an opportunity to hear lightning talks from local organisations and speakers, as well as to connect and catch up with existing contacts within the democracy sector. Tickets are free and can be ordered here.

I Have A Voice launch new campaign programme

Rebecca Deegan and their team at I Have A Voice are launching a new scheme ‘Changes Lives Take Social Action’. The scheme is aimed at helping young people who live, work or study in Lambeth learn how to campaign and encourage others to take action in their communities. Starting in July, the programme is free to join.

Apolitical report: Better Leaders, Better Democracies

Apolitical have launched their new report mapping actors and incubators that help shape political leadership around the world. The 10 month global research highlighted the role of Elect Her, Activate Collective and the Patchwork Foundation operating in the UK.

Constitution Society book launch: ‘How Democracies Live’

Join the The Constitution Society next Thursday 26th May for Prof. Stein Ringen’s launch of their new book How Democracies Live: Power, Statecraft, and Freedom in Modern Societies. Prof. Ringen is a Visiting Professor with the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. Register now.

Sheila McKechnie Foundation National Campaign Awards tomorrow

On the 19th of May the Sheila McKechnie Foundation will be hosting their National Campaign Awards to celebrate the best campaigns and campaigners across the UK. In anticipation of the event you can check out the full awards shortlist and can book a free place at the event to see who has made the most effective and creative change this year.

PSA Parliaments co-host launch of new book on accountability and the constitution

On Wednesday 8th of June, the Political Studies Association Specialist Group on Parliaments will co-host the launch of Chris Monaghan’s new book Accountability, Impeachment and the Constitution. The book explores the case for a modernised impeachment process to make politics more transparent and accountable. No registration is needed and the event is free so don’t miss out.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation hiring three Principal Policy Advisors

JRF are looking for three Principal Policy Advisors to help them advance and shape the national conversation on poverty. The work will involve convening new ideas, agendas and perspectives on the drivers of poverty and helping JRF exert influence at the highest levels of government. Deadline for applications is May 30th.

Onward looking for a paid intern to join them for six months

The intern will help out with policy research and data analysis as well as some events and marketing tasks. The successful candidate will get a chance to work across a wide range of programmes at Onward, so do share with anyone looking to make a start in policy research. Deadline is May 24th.

Upcoming conference on democratic backsliding in Oxford this weekend

On the 21st of May, the University of Oxford will host an in-person and online conference on democratic resilience in Europe and the US. Three separate panels will focus on the growth of illiberal populism, the challenges to democratic participation, and strategies for democratic resilience. The event is free to attend so register your interest and save the date.

CitizenLab publish guide on how to set up a community engagement committee

Brussels-based CitizenLab have released a new guide on how to set up a community assembly. In the guide you’ll find lots of information on the theory behind community engagement, how it reduces polarisation, and the steps involved in setting up a committee yourself.

Elections

Labour — Lib Dem electoral pact in the works?

Despite rebuttals by Keir Starmer and Ed Davey to any suggestion of a pact, the Liberal Democrats have declared their intention to campaign in only one of this summer’s byelections — Tiverton and Honiton, the seat of disgraced Conservative MP Neil Parish. Labour is expected to do the reverse, backing off in Tiverton and prioritising Wakefield, the former seat of another disgraced and convicted Conservative MP, Imran Ahmad Khan.

Labour and Lib Dem pact could deliver majority without need for SNP, reports Best for Britain polling

New polling by the team at Best for Britain suggests Labour could fall short of a majority despite a drop in Conservative support in the wake of the partygate scandal and cost of living crisis. The report suggests that if opposition parties worked together at the next election, they would be able to comfortably command a majority and produce a coalition government, without the need for SNP support.

Local Government Information Unit provide round-up of local election results

The LGiU have published an election results summary to help comprehend the impact and changes of the more than 6,000 councillors elected in recent weeks. You can also view their final election bulletin for more highlights and analysis of the elections.

Democracy Club publish English local elections data

Democracy Club’s election and candidate datasets cover all of the English local elections and the 111 individual parties that took part.

First Past the Post voting warped local election results say ERS

The elections in England and Wales were marred by ‘the distorting winner-takes-all voting system’, according to the Electoral Reform Society. Beyond the immediate issue this system creates in terms of representation, ERS have also highlighted that ‘one-party councils’ could be wasting £2.6bn annually due to the lack of proper scrutiny over their procurement process.

Reform Political Advertising publish 2022 local elections campaign ads report

Reform Political Advertising have published a full report of ads and campaigns that contained misleading information during the 2022 Local Elections. They have also set up an Election Advertising Review Panel, chaired by Lord Puttham, which will continue to review factual claims made during elections to judge whether they are being honestly and factually represented. Watch Lord Puttham talking about the project in this short clip.

Democratic Reform

Bristol votes to abolish elected mayor

Just 10 years after voting to bring in the directly elected mayor, the role will now be scrapped and replaced with a committee system, the Bristol Cable reports. 59.3% of Bristol voters opted to abolish the current system with a 28.6% turnout. The anti-mayor campaign was a joint effort dominated by Green, Lib Dem and Tory councillors in the city. Freshly re-elected Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, disappointed at the result, is concerned about the visibility and accountability of politicians in the city under the committee system. The Bristol Civic Leadership Project recently published a report on the new governance options facing the city.

Councils for PR launch next week

Make Votes Matter (MVM) & GET PR DONE! (GPRD) are teaming up for a new campaign — Councils for PR (C4PR) — to encourage councils to declare their support for proportional representation for Parliamentary elections. In a joint statement, Holly Morgan-Davies of MVM and Alan Story of GPRD have called for greater “co-operative and collaborative politics” within electoral reform projects to mirror the principles espoused by the movement. Join their launch event next Monday 23rd May.

British Youth Council teams up with the Body Shop to lower the voting age

The British Youth Council are renewing efforts to lobby politicians to lower the voting age to 16+. They’ve teamed up with the Body Shop to do so who are running their #BeSeenBeHeard campaign calling for a reduction to the national voting age and encouraging young people to speak out about issues that affect them.

The Constitution Unit looks back on Labour’s 1997 constitutional reform programme

Lord Falconer, Baroness Chakrabarti and Professor Robert Hazell, founding Director of the Constitution Unit, with chair Meg Russell, current Director of the Constitution Unit, will be looking back on Labour’s constitutional efforts 25 years on from the election of Tony Blair’s first Labour government. Register now.

Save the date — Participatory Budgeting Conference 2022 this September

PB Scotland have announced their annual conference for 28th September. Find out more and register on their website.

Integrity & Transparency

Votes for Schools conducts poll on Partygate, voters overwhelmingly think Boris should go

73–80% of school voters from 7–18 years old aligned on the view that the Prime Minister should have resigned and should not have broken the rules. 76% of younger primary school voters aged 5–7 voted ‘no’ when asked “is it ever okay to break the rules?” Sam Welsh, Penny Lamb and the Votes for Schools team polled more than 35,022 school age voters between 22nd — 29th April.

Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape and banned from Commons

A Conservative MP has been banned from the Commons after arrest on suspicion of rape. The MP is as yet unnamed. Scotland Yard reports, “a man was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in a public office.”

Simon Burall considers methods to involve the public in the Covid Inquiry

Senior Associate at Involve, Simon Burall, suggests a role for mini-publics within the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. The inquiry has just completed its draft Terms of Reference after a four week consultation with bereaved families and experts.

Reports of police violence as protesters thwart alleged immigration raids in London

Weeks after the rushed-through Nationality and Borders Bill emboldened immigration enforcement, Londoners rallied together this Saturday preventing an alleged immigration raid on delivery drivers. Journalists on scene, including those from the Financial Times and New Statesman, reported the use of violence on the crowd. Nine were arrested on violent disorder charge, with Met Police also investigating the actions of officers present at the protest. This follows similar actions earlier this month in Edinburgh.

Open Government Partnership launches revised Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government

Produced by the Open Government Partnership’s Support Unit, The Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government provides an overview of the impacts of open government practices and a deeper view into the impacts of specific open government policies. First published in 2018, the Skeptic’s Guide is based on peer-reviewed research and provides a range of case studies of open government.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Historic first as Sinn Féin set to re-establish executive

Sinn Féin secured the most seats in the assembly election, a first for a nationalist party north of the border. As a result, Michelle O’Neill is set to become First Minister, should the DUP nominate a Deputy First Minister. Since the partition of Ireland in 1921, unionist parties have always been the largest in the Assembly, and previously, the Stormont Parliament. See this Constitution Unit Twitter thread for more details.

New podcast sheds light on politics and power-sharing in Northern Ireland

If you’re feeling a bit puzzled by the implications of the elections in Northern Ireland, or just want a deeper dive into how the political system works, then check out this new episode of the Uncovering Politics podcast from the UCL School of Public Policy. The new episode — Politics in Northern Ireland — tackles the question of whether power-sharing can return and what the election means for the future of Northern Ireland.

ERS: We can revive local democracy in Scotland

As part of the Our Democracy coalition, ERS Scotland director Willie Sullivan and James Mitchell, professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh, co-authored a pamphlet By us and for us: How Scottish local democracy can build and strengthen community. The pamphlet sets out a vision of how citizens can revive local democracy in Scotland.

Shadow Minister for Levelling Up to discuss Labour’s plan for devolution

During a speech on inequality on the 25th of May, Labour’s Alex Norris, Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, will address the Labour Party’s approach to devolution. Tickets are free and the event will be streamed online.

Torbay Council Conservative leader ‘breached code of conduct’

A Torbay councillor who was found to have bullied a council officer in a Zoom meeting has “stepped back” from all their roles on council committees, with their party’s group leader also having been found guilty of breaking council code of conduct. Reported by BBC Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives, the story has been picked up by the BBC.

Democracy & Media

Cummings exposes Cash for Content Scandal

Byline Times reports on new testimony from the Prime Minister’s former chief aide uncovering a special subsidy arrangement for the Mail group, Mirror group, Murdoch group and Telegraph group. “Dressed up as COVID relief”, the subsidies were awarded to the four wealthy newspaper groups at the height of the pandemic, budgeted at more than £35m for the first three months.

British Library to host event on compassion and honesty in news media

The British Library will host a discussion on the 11th of June on how we can create a trustworthy, independent and compassionate media to meet the challenges of the present. Joined by a panel of speakers from different branches of the media, Jennifer Nadel, CEO of Compassion in Politics, will chair the debate on whether journalism can be de-toxified. The event will not be live streamed so book now for an in-person spot.

96% of the public the oppose privatisation of Channel Four

A public consultation on the privatisation of Channel Four received 56,000 public responses, with 96% opposing the government’s plans and favouring a continuation of public ownership. Channel Four has since released plans to relocate their HQ out of London as an alternative to privatisation in a bid to appeal to the government’s levelling-up agenda.

New Manifesto for a People’s Media released by the Media Reform Coalition

Concentrated media ownership, commercial constraints and political interference present major challenges to the independence of UK media, reports Declassified UK. The newly released Manifesto for a People’s Media from the Media Reform Coalition seeks to address this with a new framework for a publicly owned, independent media commons. They suggest this new framework will help build a more participatory media orientated towards the public interest.

Funding Democracy

JRRT back Proportional Representation work with funding surge

Make Votes Matter has been awarded £300,000 over three years to upscale their campaign. Labour for a New Democracy has received £150,000 for an 18-month period to boost their work on achieving a PR manifesto commitment from the Labour Party. Find out more about recent funding awards from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and apply today.

Racial equity and complex social issues funding by Lloyds Bank Foundation

Applications for Lloyds Bank Foundation’s unrestricted funding are still open. They’re offering funding for small and local charities in England and Wales. Visit the website to check eligibility and apply for funding under one of eleven complex social issue subjects, or racial equity. It’s specifically looking to fund charities led by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

And Finally…

Who are your favourite speakers and thinkers on democracy?

Eli Pariser at New Public poses the tweet, have your say.

European Parliament elections reform backs pan-European MEPs, spitzenkandidaten process

In the first major European election reform for some time, EU citizens may soon be able to vote for pan-European candidates. With pan-Euro candidates means the increased visibility of pan-European parties and pan-European debate, proponents of the reform argue. Whilst the reform has the backing of the European Parliament, opponents of the measure are relying on the European Council to water down the proposals. The proposed rules include adoption of the Spitzenkandidaten process for president of the Commission.

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 Girvan 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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