UK Democracy Bulletin, 20th April

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

  • Elections & Police Bill face crunch votes ahead of Parliamentary recess
  • Online Safety Bill new office hours
  • Constitution Unit publishes detailed report on voter attitudes
  • IPPR report dramatic loss of faith in democracy among UK adults

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 Pilar Girvan — Advocacy & Comms Officer at Involve, James Clarke — True & Fair Party, Titus Alexander — Democracy Matters, Myf Nixon, Communications Manager at mySociety, Holly Morgan-Davies — Alliance and Support Executive at Make Votes Matter, Jessie Joe Jacobs — Coordinator at Democracy Network, Oliver Walkden — Communications and Digital Marketing at Young Citizens and Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent.

Sign the Ecosystem Pledge

With one 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.

In recent weeks, we have welcomed Frances Crook and the team at the Commission on Political Power, Samayya Afzal and the British Youth Council, Ashley Hodges and Young Citizens, and Rose Lasko-Skinner and the team at Demos, as pledges.

Upcoming Legislation

New Online Safety Bill office hours weekly meeting

Each weekly meeting involves intel sharing and subgroup updates from across the OSB working group. If you’re working on the Online Safety Bill, this is a must-attend! Next meet is today at 3.30pm, contact Matt at Fair Vote for your invite.

House of Lords votes to turn back the clock on second preference voting in PCC & mayoral elections

Writing for MyLondon, Josiah Mortimer, previously Head of Comms at Electoral Reform Society, notes that the Lords failed to block a change to election law, meaning that second preference voting has now been abolished in English & Welsh mayor-led areas and PCC elections. Peers also rejected automatic voter registration, but did vote in favour of expanded lists of accepted ID for when new voter ID laws come in. Worth noting, of 168 Labour Peers in the second chamber, only 74 turned out to vote.

Labour calls for crackdown on environmental activists, rings alarm bells among campaigners

Last week the Labour Party called on the Government to act with urgency and ban environmental protests. Unsurprisingly this has reportedly caused alarm amongst party members and allied organisations, particularly those working around the Police Bill.

Liberty suggest ‘crunch time’ looming for ‘dangerous bills’ that threaten democracy

Following the Easter break Liberty have highlighted possible plans from the government to pass nine bills in nine days, or else risk them being dropped altogether. According to Liberty, the rush to pass them is the result of a series of delays caused by entrenched opposition to the bills. The bills are due to fall unless passed immediately due to Parliamentary recess. The bills affected include the Elections Bill, the Police Bill, Nationality and Borders Bill and Judicial Review Bill.

Carnegie UK & Demos provide resources to better understand the Online Safety Bill

The Online Safety Bill (OSB) can be a challenge to navigate. To help make sense of it all Carnegie UK have published this one page summary of the bill and DEMOS have put out a position paper going into greater depth on how the bill stacks up against various tests for successful digital regulation.

Extensive ‘reading list’ released on the Online Safety Bill

The House of Commons Library have released a reading list of all things related to the Online Safety Bill. With in-depth analysis, reactions from organisations and charities, as well as media articles and opinion pieces, the list is a great starting point for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge of the bill.

Elections

Hope Not Hate highlight ‘genuine electoral threat’ from far right in this year’s locals

According to the team at HNH, whilst the far-right have been in the ‘wilderness’ for the past few years, this year they claim far-right parties at this year’s local elections are a ‘genuine electoral threat’, and are calling for people to send in far right leaflets they come across. Hope Not Hate are monitoring far-right candidates and sharing intelligence with local organisations to combat their rise, alongside data-driven attempts to boost turnout amongst young people and minority communities in areas where far-right candidates are standing. Find out more about how you and your organisation can work to deny the far-right a foothold in this election.

LGiU publish guide to local elections

The Local Government Information Unit have published their Ones to Watch guide to the local elections in England, Scotland and Wales. Stay up to date with all the local election news and gossip by signing up to their elections bulletin (but we’ll be regurgitating most of it here anyway!).

Democracy Sector

Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy report launches, suggests voters care more about integrity than previously thought

67 members of the public, carefully selected to represent the UK public, have agreed eight resolutions and 51 detailed recommendations on how to strengthen UK democracy. The Constitution Unit’s Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy, developed with Involve, found that integrity in public life commanded the most passionate support. Recommendations included making “lying or intentionally misleading parliament” punishable as a “contempt of Parliament”. The report builds upon the Constitution Unit’s major survey of public opinion, polling some 6,000 people late last year.

Dramatic loss of faith in democracy amongst UK adults, says IPPR report
The report’s disturbing conclusions find that donors to political parties and big businesses are now commonly viewed by the electorate as the main drivers of government policy. The polling found just 6% of UK adults believe their views are the main driver of government policy. The report, Road to Renewal, suggests compounding political crises, such as the prorogation of parliament, lack of parliamentary oversight over the Brexit process, sweeping pandemic legislation without parliamentary censure, and ministers briefing the media before MPs, have played a key role in sharp decline.

Young Citizens highlight Lord Hodgson’s new report The Ties that Bind

A follow-up to the 2018 report that called for the appointment of a dedicated minister responsible for matters related to active citizenship and civic engagement, the new report states that current coordination of citizenship and civic engagement policy is “insufficient”. Young Citizens’ CEO Ashley Hodges, a contributor to the report, remarks at the apparent contradiction of a levelling up strategy aiming to put power in the hands of local people that delivers no resource and makes no time for building citizen capacity to engage with institutions of government. Short on time? Read the report summary.

Climate Emergency UK are looking for a Campaigns and Policy Officer

Climate Emergency UK work with councils and residents to catalyse local level action on the climate and ecological emergency. The Campaign and Policy Officer will help create next year’s Council Climate Plan Scorecards to help measure how effective local action is in reducing emissions. Apply before 3rd May.

Electoral Reform Society host discussion on the future of local governance

Following the release of their Democracy Made in England report on the dynamics of local government, ERS hosted a live discussion exploring the question of ‘where next for local government?’ Explore all previous online discussions through their YouTube channel, and become a member of ERS to put live questions to panellists at future events.

New research suggests minipublics could reduce political dissatisfaction if results are properly implemented

In the context of rising public dissatisfaction within democratic countries, research into deliberative minipublics as a potential antidote has seen a recent surge. A new paper from the European Journal of Political Research has found that minipublics received higher levels of political support than representative decision-making processes when recommendations were implemented. However, it also suggests they have the capacity to aggravate political dissatisfaction when recommendations are not followed.

Pact Pioneers handbook explores power and anti-racism in civil society leadership

A new handbook from Pact Pioneers is aimed at anyone holding a leadership role across civil society. Focusing on themes of power, accountability, connection and trust, the handbook provides a series of exercises and frameworks through which to consider how civil society organsations can overcome discrimination and harness collective power.

50:50 Parliament to hold recurring event for women faced with ‘higher hurdles’

50:50 are reaching out to all women that have physical, mental, emotional, or other such requirements that could create additional hurdles on their journey in politics. They plan to hold a bespoke session every month to help women overcome those hurdles with their first event taking place May 23rd. 50:50 are also looking for an Events Coordinator, do you know the right person?

Get set for Radix Big Tent Festival this June

Trin Gong and the team at Radix Big Tent have got a treat in store this Summer. The two day festival titled ‘Transitions’ will hone in on a discussion of strategy and action for regeneration and renewal across all layers of government. Find out more and book your 2FOR1 tickets here.

openDemocracy lead campaign demanding greater governmental transparency

More than 110 MPs, journalists and campaigners have signed an open letter to the Information Commissioner’s Office highlighting concerns over governmental secrecy and lacklustre attempts to ensure transparent and accountable government. The letter states the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is ‘clearly not working’ and comes following a number of revelations detailing Whitehall’s abuse of the act.

New Local host Stronger Things 2022 event on community power

At the end of March, New Local held their Stronger Things 2022 event bringing together a range of speakers to discuss the power of community and engaged citizenship. If you missed the event you can catch up on all the talks, including a conversation with Angela Rayner, on the New Local YouTube channel.

Involve are looking for a new Engagement Lead

The role of the new Engagement Lead will be to help build capacity inside and outside public institutions and imbed practices that will lead to greater levels of public participation in decision making. Check out the job description and apply before 16th May.

Russian military targets Ukrainian democratic institutions

Reports have emerged of systematic violence and targeting of Ukrainian civil society. Abductions of mayors, local government representatives, journalists, activists, and other civilians have become widespread. UK mayors and local representatives have responded by organising a solidarity campaign calling on the UN to take decisive action. Local representatives can sign up by emailing 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

Germany combats far right by bolstering democratic culture

MBTs (Mobile Counselling Teams Against Right-Wing Extremism) have been supporting citizens, labour unions and local councils in Germany to combat the growth of the far-right. The programme offers tools to communities on how to respond to and prevent the mobilisation of far-right groups through a process of reclaiming public spaces, both physical and online. The initiatives began work in the 90s and are still having positive effects.

Extinction Rebellion take to the streets, Just Stop Oil take to the refineries

Extinction Rebellion have been back on the streets of London these past weeks calling for urgent action to avert climate catastrophe, their demands feature an urgent call for a citizens’ assembly on the climate crisis. Stay up to date on XR’s latest escapades via their Twitter. In recent weeks XR splinter group Just Stop Oil have occupied critical fossil fuel infrastructure across the UK calling for a moratorium on fossil fuel investments and extraction in the UK. Significant disruptions to fossil fuel supplies were reported nationwide, with pumps dry across many forecourts in the South East.

Democracy & Media

Media Reform Coalition outlines proposals for sustainable local journalism

In February this year the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport department put out a call for evidence on the future of local journalism. Media Reform Coalition have responded calling for new funding streams for local journalism, financed through levies on tech giants. They suggest these funds should go towards local interest journalism rather than to commercial news providers.

Government confirms plans to go ahead with privatisation of Channel 4

Nadine Dorries has confirmed the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 claiming government ownership of the organisation is holding it “back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”. A We Own It petition opposing the plans received 28,000 signatures in its first 24 hours.

Funding Democracy

Make Votes Matter awarded grant by JRRT, plans day of action
Inspired by the Great Pilgrimage of 1913, the “Get Moving for PR” national day of action will include draft motions people can send to their local councils to support PR for the House of Commons. The funding award from JRRT has allowed MVM to expand their team and ramp up their campaign.

Act for Change Programme comes to a close

Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esme Fairburn Foundation have been busy funding youth social justice action. Their joint Act for Change Fund ran from 2018–22 and issued £3.6m to provide funds and resources for young people to tackle inequality and discrimination in their communities. Explore the full list of projects funded through the programme and check out the great work these organisations have been doing.

And Finally…

Democracy Sausage

You can thank Trin Gong at Radix Big Tent for this one. Trin says in Australia it’s all about ‘democracy sausages’ at polling stations, rather than dogs. Whilst fundraising outside polling stations has apparently been on the go since the 1930s, hot sausage fundraising stands have apparently been going strong since the 1980s with the advent of the portable grill. On federal election day in 2016, Twitter even changed it’s emoji for #ausvotes to a piece of white bread topped by a sausage and red sauce!

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 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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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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