UK Democracy Bulletin, 1st March 2022

Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding and Molly Hudson 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

  • Russia-Ukraine War throws spotlight on Russian money in British politics
  • Partygate swept under the rug
  • Democracy funding I Have A Voice, Graham Smith & Citizen Network win funding
  • Democracy Network big network survey & network development day
  • Elections Bill moves to Lords Committee stage
  • Police Bill now in parliamentary ping-pong

In case you missed it…

You can read this Democracy Bulletin email on Medium.

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, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation & The Centre for Democracy, Jessie Joe Jacobs — Coordinator at Democracy Network, Louise Crow — Programme Director at mySociety, Frances Scott — Founder at 50:50 Parliament and Alex King — Associate at Shared Future CIC.

Police & Election Bills

Government rejects Lords amendments to Police Bill, MPs back the bill

Priti Patel wrote to MPs urging them to back the controversial anti-protest legislation. Last month peers inflicted a string of defeats on the government’s measures. The Bill now faces an extended round of parliamentary ping-pong.

Updates from the Democracy Defence Coalition:

Electoral Commission changes and Voter ID seem to be the two biggest issues for peers with the Elections Bill, with some mention of third party campaigning. Many peers have notably been using Democracy Defence Coalition (DDC) messaging and language in their speeches.

Mega thread on the Lords 2nd Reading of the Elections Bill

Jessica Metheringham, Chair of Unlock Democracy, tracked developments in the House of Lords throughout the 2nd Reading. Must read for anyone working on the Elections Bill. The Bill now moves forward to Lords Committee stage, sitting on the 10th March.

Anti-Elections Bill Digital Billboard tours Westminster

Last week, the Democracy Defence Coalition drove a digital billboard truck around Westminster, if you’d like to use the photos, they are free to use.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire’s op-ed against the Elections Bill

Writing for The Times’ Red Box, Lord Wallace conjures an image (paywall) of where the Elections Bill leads us, further down the ‘Trumpian path’ where elections are neither fair nor free.

Russia-Ukraine War

Democracy Volunteers to join ENEMO Network

Democracy Volunteers’ Director Jon Ault has begun talks to join the European Network of Election Monitoring (ENEMO), an international group focusing on observing elections in central & eastern Europe to ensure the quality of democracy in the region. ENEMO has condemned the invasion of Ukraine, citing attempts to destroy democracy in the country. For more of ENEMO’s work, see their recent report into Ukraine’s 2020 local elections.

Concerns over influence of Conservative Party’s Russian donor links

According to Labour Party & SNP calculations, the Conservative Party has raised between £1.9m — £2.3m in party donations from Russian oligarchs since 2019. In a 2019 analysis openDemocracy found that the Conservatives had received more than £3.5m from Russian sources since 2010. In 2020, the so-called ‘Russia Report’ by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee expressed concern over the role of Russian money in UK political life. The Foreign Office has responded to recent probing of Tory donors saying it is “wrong and discriminatory to tar them with the same brush”.

Ukrainian Parliament continues to meet despite invasion

Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik reports from Kyiv that the country’s parliament is partially functioning again and will vote on key matters, including a formal appeal for Ukraine to join the European Union.

Foreign property owners lose their anonymity through new laws in effort to combat UK’s role as money laundering hub

Foreign owners of British property will have to disclose their identities for the first time under new legislation designed to crack down on Russian oligarchs laundering their wealth. Transparency International revealed this month that £1.5billion of UK property had been bought since 2016 by Russians accused of corruption or with close links to the Russian government.

Open Government Partnership condemns Russian actions

The Open Government Partnership has condemned the attack on Ukraine, a member of the OGP since 2011.

Votes for Schools developing information pack for school children on Ukraine

The team at Votes for Schools are developing an informational lesson on the situation in Ukraine. They’re offering the guidance pack to any teachers that would find it useful in their classrooms.

Democracy Sector

Partygate seemingly swept under the rug amid Ukraine crisis

Last week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was questioned by the Metropolitan Police.

Democracy comes to NOW PLAY THIS Games Festival

NOW PLAY THIS is a festival of experimental game design. This year’s festival theme is focused on the relationship between game design and democracy. Whilst submissions for the festival have now closed, The Centre for Democracy has put in a submission for a workshop on group decision making, where we will demonstrate different methods. The submission is currently pending approval.

Democracy in a Pandemic Book Launch at Newspeak House

On March 10th at Newspeak House in Central London, Professor Graham Smith, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, will be hosting an evening of drinks and talks in partnership with Involve’s Democracy Network to celebrate the launch of the book. Register now on Eventbrite. The book by Tim Hughes and Graham has been released under Open Access, free for you to read.

50:50 to host International Women’s Day event in Parliament

On the 8th March, Frances Scott and the 50:50 Parliament team are hosting a special event commemorating International Women’s Day, supported by Lloyds Banking Group. Contact Frances to find out more.

Democracy Network hosts Democracy Drinks Belfast

As part of the Imagine festival and as part of Democracy Day, Involve’s Democracy Network will be hosting the first session of Democracy Drinks Belfast on the 25th March. The event will feature lightning talks and an opportunity to network and make connections. Register now for the event in Belfast on Eventbrite.

Democracy Network survey, Development Day

The Big Democracy Network Survey aims to better inform Involve’s Democracy Network team how they can help strengthen organisations across the UK democracy sector. Answer the survey and have your say. On March 21st, Jessie Joe Jacobs and the Democracy Network team will be hosting a full day co-creation workshop. This is your chance to have your say over how the Democracy Network should develop, what it should focus on and how it should engage with the sector. Sign up here to take part, the session will run from 9.30am to 3pm on Zoom.

Democracy Happens Where You Are

Inspired by citizens across Kirklees, Diane Sims and Michelle Ross partnered up with Fettle Animation to produce this wonderful video. The video was previewed as part of this weekend’s Notwestminster festival of local democracy.

Join Demos and Jon Alexander for the launch his new book, Citizens

Polly McKenzie, Chief Executive of Demos, and Jon Alexander, the author of the new book Citizens, will be hosting a launch event in Demos’ offices in London on the 17th March. The book explores the rise of the ‘citizen story’ across business, civil society and communities across the UK. Polly will be using the opportunity to reflect on their own Making Democracy Work series. Register now for the breakfast book launch.

Shared Future CIC jam packed schedule of events coming up

On the 10th March, the Southwark Climate Change Citizens’ Jury makes its public debut, register for the launch. On the 17th March Shared Future are hosting workshops on youth participation and PB, where they will be launching the Youth PB Accelerator Toolkit, find out more. If that wasn’t enough they’ve also teamed up with DemSoc, Involve and UK100 to design training and guidance for local authority officers on planning, commissioning and delivering high quality climate decision-making. Also, relatedly, check out the Greater Manchester Local Energy Markets Citizens’ Jury being run by Carbon Co-op.

BBC should have a democracy correspondent, argues Joe Mitchell

With climate news desks quickly becoming a standard for big news companies, democracy desks seem like the next big step — and would be a huge filip for the sector, says Joe Mitchell, Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation. The Washington Post recently launched their own democracy news desk.

RECLAIM thinking about infrastructure for youth activism space

Roger Harding, Chief Exec at RECLAIM, is currently thinking about what new infrastructure is needed in the youth activism space. If that sounds like something you’d like to feed in on, get in touch with Roger.

Compassion in Politics enjoy a team weekend

The team at Compassion in Politics (CiP) spent the weekend together hatching plans and strategies for developing a more inclusive, cooperative and kinder politics in the UK.

SMK survey finds recent culture war attacks on charities strengthened their support with the public

An annual survey of social campaigning by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation has found that many charities feel increasingly emboldened to speak out on contested issues, despite recent attacks. High profile attacks on charities including The National Trust by rightwing politicians backfired, galvanising support for the organisations. The charities were accused of a breach of charity laws, but were cleared of wrongdoing. The National Trust has since reported record numbers of new members.

mySociety on the anti-corruption benefits of FOI

Alex Parsons takes note of the exclusion of the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency from FOI and that it’s exclusion and other similar attacks are a part of a broader attack on a key pillar of good governance.

Does the public have a right to know about potential criminal activity?

No, says the UK Supreme Court — which has ruled a case against Bloomberg for naming a businessman being investigated for wrongdoings before he had been charged. Commentators have described this as punishment of investigative journalists for tabloid excesses, claiming it “creates a serious risk of legitimate media investigation being suppressed and wrongdoing going unreported”.

Funding Democracy

Citizen Network awarded two years funding by Lankelly Chase

Simon Duffy, President of the Citizen Network, is celebrating the excellent news!

I Have A Voice secure funding to deliver career training

IHAV have received funding from The Walcot Foundation to run a free 2 week training programme for 24 trainees to support their efforts to pursue careers related to informing the policymaking process e.g. government affairs, public affairs and research. IHAV have teamed up with a range of employers to provide at least 6 paid internships after the training course, which will run in April. If you know anyone who might benefit, share this link with them.

Graham Smith wins a small grant for work to bolster the relationship between democracy sector and academia

Professor Graham Smith at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster has won a small grant from the university to co-create guidance on democracy organisations and academics can foster better relationships.

Blagrave Trust open funding call to support young people with making policy change

Roger Harding, Chief Exec at Reclaim, reports that Blagrave have recently opened several funding rounds, one of which is now closed, on young people in policy making, and funding youth policy change and campaigning. Worth a look.

And Finally…

Check out the New Economy Brief

Recommended by Jessie Joe Jacobs, this isn’t exactly democracy related, but presents a useful weekly digest of all things economics and levelling up.

Of By For

Debuting in 2022, this documentary delivers a bold new vision for democracy in the United States — one without politicians, parties, or campaigns.

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

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, and The Centre for Democracy team

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