UK Democracy Bulletin, 20th October
Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding and Molly Hudson of The Centre for Democracy. This week we were joined by guest editor Jessie Joe Jacobs, Coordinator of the UK Democracy Network. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Sir David Amess MP’s murder shocks Westminster
- Democratise to Decarbonise new joint campaign gears up for COP26
- Online Safety Bill gathers pace, Frances Haugen to speak before MPs on 25th October
- Kemi Badenoch new minister responsible for the Elections Bill
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Sir David Amess MP
Westminster is in a state of shock at the murder of sitting MP David Amess, just 5 years on from the death of Jo Cox. On Monday, Parliamentarians of all hues paid tribute to the memory of the veteran Southend MP. The Queen has now granted Southend on Sea city status in his honour, in recognition of David’s tireless campaign to boost the then-town’s status. Democracy organisations and political parties have ceased campaigning for the time being out of respect.
More in Common publish report on UK public attitudes to democracy and politics
The new report, Democratic Repair: What Britons expect from their democracy, is based on polling and focus groups based on their 7 segments. The research found that most take pride in Britain’s democratic system and felt that the democratic system is not in crisis, though the research highlighted signs of potential disrepair and decay. View More in Common’s paper and their recommendations here.
Police Bill Alliance update
The Police Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords, and is scheduled for Committee on 20th, 25th, and 27th October. From 10–17 October 2021, Amnesty UK, Liberty, Stonewall, Freedom from Torture, the British Institute for Human Rights, Equally Ours, The End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Quakers and The Humanists held a Week of Action for Human Rights in the UK. If you have any questions regarding the Police Bill Alliance or would like to join Liberty’s Police Bill Alliance email updates, please email Kathleen Christie.
Democracy Pioneers legislative theatre performance this Saturday in Glasgow
A winner of the Nesta Democracy Pioneers award, a new legislative theatre project by Katy Rubin, Glasgow City Council and Shared Future CIC, has brought young Glaswegians together throughout the summer to explore and develop a play around transport and accessibility. Their final performance is this Saturday, October 23rd!
Shared Future CIC are on the lookout for Citizens’ Jury participants
Alex King at Shared Future CIC is looking for people based in Furness-in-Barrow in Cumbria and Southwark in London, to join Climate Change Citizens’ Juries in their area. The deadlines are on the 25th and 27th October respectively. Meanwhile, the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury is due to launch their recommendations on Tuesday 2nd November at the Northern Housing Consortium’s 2021 Summit.
Electoral Reform Society working with Politics for the Many to build support within trade unions for PR
After last month’s Labour Party Conference vote, organisations pushing for electoral reform have re-focused on the trade unions as the last major obstacle to securing the Labour Party’s commitment to PR. Electoral Reform Society council elections are also currently ongoing. If you’re a member — or know anyone who is — make sure to vote!
Josiah Mortimer starts their first week as City Hall Editor of MyLondon this week
Stepping down as Head of Comms at the Electoral Reform Society, Josiah is keen to hit the ground running in their new role. Please drop them an email or tweet to discuss any London democracy issues, campaigns, research and story tips.
‘Jessie meets’ — the new Democracy Network Coordinator has been meeting & greeting democracy projects and attending events across the UK and democracy sector. Here is a summary of some of those meetings:
Hannah Stevens at Elect Her — Formerly known as The Parliament Project, Elect Her is active across England, Scotland & Wales and is a non-partisan organisation working to motivate, support and equip women in all their diversity to stand for political office in Britain. Nearly 5000 women have attended their workshops to date and are soon to be beginning a major project in Wales funded by the Welsh government.
Simon Duffy at Citizen Network is a global cooperative working for equality and justice around the world. It exists to celebrate human diversity and stand up for human equality, encouraging people to work together as citizens,rejecting division and creating more inclusive communities that will welcome people with all their differences. Based in South Yorkshire but with global aims, they run other networks and projects such as the UBI lab, Neighbourhood Democracy Movement and Citizen Fest. See more here.
Hattie Andrews at The Politics Project. They specialise in supporting young people and politicians to have powerful conversations that build understanding, trust and relationships and lead to real change in communities. They run Democracy Classroom which hosts an online hub which brings together a large collection of political literacy, democracy and electoral engagement resources.
Democratise to DeCarbonise — Planning for COP26. James Robertson (Sortition Foundation) Tom Brake (Unlock Democracy) Frances Foley (Compass) Phil Connor, Willie Sullivan (Electoral Reform Society), Klina Jordan (Make Votes Matter) have come together to develop a joint campaign to be launched at COP26 around making democratisation a key ask of the climate movement and those that support it. Democratise to Decarbonise states that despite grand promises at election time, successive UK governments have ignored decades of public pressure to act to avert climate breakdown. To decarbonise we have to democratise and their key demands are a binding Citizens’ Assembly. To find out more contact James at Sortition Foundation.
The Online Safety Bill’s Impact on Elections and Democracy: Jessie attended a panel discussion and Q&A about the impact of the Online Safety Bill on UK democracy co-hosted by Centre for Democracy and Fair Vote UK. The draft Online Safety Bill outlines a new, systemic approach to tackling online harms including a “duty of care” for digital platforms to protect their users from harmful content. It would also grant Ofcom new oversight and fining capabilities so that it can act as the digital regulator.
This discussion looked at what could change under the Bill, how it currently may not go far enough and what to do to ensure it has the best possible impact on political discourse and debate in the digital arena.
Naomi Smith: Best for Britain, Best for Britain was founded in 2017 as a crisis response to Britain’s departure from the EU. They re-launched under CEO Naomi Smith in April 2021. They believe that democracy can only be improved if public trust in politics and political processes is restored and that a more decentralised approach to decision making would put power back into the hands of local communities and help to re-enfranchise the disenfranchised. They are supporting and leading on various democracy initiatives with a view to see a healthier democracy in the UK.
Big update from Sortition Foundation: second chamber in Scotland, citizens assembly on democracy and more
James Robertson, Campaigns Director at Sortition Foundation, is currently in the midst of a campaign pushing for a “House of Citizens” as a second chamber in Scotland, first envisioned by the 2019 Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland. Sortition are also working to convene a new major coalition of groups, including Make Votes Matter, Compass, ERS and Unlock Democracy, running a series of events and supporter mobilisations at COP26, testing the waters for a new potential cross-sectoral campaign for a CA on democracy in the UK. But that’s not all, they’re also running a series of focus groups looking at different ways of framing democratic reform, and supporting the UCL Democracy in the UK after Brexit process. Many fingers, in many pies.
London Assembly member expected to pass a motion in favor of residence-based voting rights
Whilst it’s unclear who on the assembly will pass the motion, Mayor Sadiq Khan has approved of RBVR in the past.
Liz Crosbie highlights lack of democracy sector readiness for a potential snap General Election in 2022
This week’s Democracy Check-In session centred on how ready the UK democracy space is for a potential election in 2022. What are the steps we need to take right now to begin? How is your organisation campaigning affected by the Elections Bill? Shaun Roberts of Unlock Democracy, Liz Crosbie of RebootGB and Jon Morter of the Progressive Alliance, suggested an immediate summit. Other interesting aspects of discussion centred on how do we prevent the tactical vote “mess” that occurred in GE 2019.
I Have A Voice and Votes for Schools team up for the kids
In the run up to COP26, Votes for Schools are working partner organisations including UNICEF UK to explore with children climate change and its effect on their rights. There will be a free package of resources to facilitate a debate at Primary, Secondary and 16+, and the chance for children and young people to vote and comment on the question. Find out more here.
Don’t miss: UK Democracy Fund Conference
Bringing together researchers, campaigners, policy makers and practitioners, UK Democracy Fund looks to assess the potential impact of the Elections Bill, the stalling of the Every Vote Matters agenda, and how we might build solutions to under-representation. Register for the conference here.
Champions of free expression celebrated at Index on Censorship awards
The winners of Index on Censorship’s 2021 Freedom of Expression awards have been announced at a ceremony in London. The Freedom of Expression Awards, which were first held in 2000, celebrate individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world. Winners join Index’s Awards Fellowship programme and receive dedicated training and support. This year’s awards are particularly significant, coming as the organisation celebrates its 50th birthday. Find out who won here.
MP Kemi Badenoch is now likely to be the relevant minister for the Elections Bill
Recently the grapevine informed us that Chloe Smith’s replacement was to be Chris Pincher. Alas, the grapevine AKA Fair Vote’s Election Bill Office Hours session, now considers Kemi Badenoch the likely successor to carry forth the Elections Bill. If you’d like to join the weekly Election Bill Office Hours Zoom sessions, pop email Matt an email.
Labour not tabling Electoral Commission amendments
The amendments to increasing fining power or allow for criminal prosecutions are not being tabled by the Labour Party, though they continue to push all voter ID amendments.
Make Votes Matter have prepared a submission to PACAC about the new FPTP section of the bill
You can view the submission here.
MLMS Young Leader Maddy Dhesi organises open letter for Welsh MSs and MPs against voter ID
Lara Parizotto at the Young Europeans Network talks Elections Bill on the Spoonful of News podcast
Listen to the full episode here.
Tom Brake clarifies the significance of Holyrood and the Senedd refusing legislative consent
“The UK Parliament must ask the Scottish Parliament for consent if it is passing a Bill that affects Scotland. This is included in the Scotland Act 2016. However, the UK Supreme Court decided in 2017 that the Scottish Parliament does not have a “legally enforceable veto”. This means that if the Scottish Parliament votes against a legislative consent motion, it can still become the law”.
Online Safety Bill
Carnegie Trust Online Safety Bill Update
Carnegie argue that the draft OSB provides too many powers to the Secretary of State over too many things. Last month’s reshuffle cleared out all of the previous tech, digital and data ministers at all levels, meaning that all those who had a hand in writing the current version of the OSB have now moved on. The Bill’s Joint Committee has been hearing evidence over the last few weeks and is picking up pace, Carnegie published their own submission here. You can view a more full account of committee submissions here. End Violence Against Women and Girls, supported by Glitch and others, have published a series of recommendations for the Online Safety Bill to better address the experience of online violence, image-based sexual abuse and other harms.
MPs vow to “radically toughen up” online safety bill in reaction to Sir David Amess’ death
Mark Francois, the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, who lost a close friend and mentor in Sir David Amess, has called for radically toughening up the new draft bill, remarking in their tribute: “I suggest that if we want to ensure that our colleague didn’t die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming online harms bill and toughen it up markedly.”
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen will speak before MPs on 25th October
All eyes will be on the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill next Monday as Haugen gives evidence to MPs on Facebook’s failure to act on the evidence of harm on its platform.
Lord Vaizey and William Hague share thoughts on the Online Safety Bill
Ed Vaizey has provided a comprehensive interview to TechCrunch, covering his candidacy for the Ofcom Chair vacancy and his thoughts on the OSB, meanwhile William Hague has written why social media algorithms are harmful to democracy.
Integrity & Transparency
New Information Commissioner expresses support for FOI charges
John Edwards, the current New Zealand Privacy Commission is due to take over the UK’s Information Commissioner on the 31st October. At a recent meeting of the DCMS Committee, Mr Edwards, unprompted, suggested he thought it was legitimate to charge some FOI requesters, seemingly unaware that the ICO had always opposed the introduction of charges.
Centre for Governance and Scrutiny announces Annual Scrutiny Conference
The conference will be held at the King’s Fund venue near Oxford Street in London, and is the first physical outing for CfGS since the beginning of the pandemic. The event will take place on December 1st, 10am — 4pm. Find out more about the conference and book your place here.
Featured Upcoming Events
The Centre for Democracy maintains a full database of events from across the democracy sector.
Active Job Listings across the Democracy Sector
- Apply by 20 October: Campaigns Manager at European Movement (£32–35k)
- Apply by 19 October: Operations Manager at Demos (£30–35k)
- Apply by 19 October: Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Fawcett Society (£32.5k)
- Apply by 20 October: Policy and Parliamentary Relations Manager at Full Fact (£40–44k)
- Apply by 22 October: Education Coordinator at ShoutOut UK (£18.5k)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Open Deadline: Trustee at Speakers’ Corner Trust (Voluntary)
- Apply by 31 October: Non-executive Director at Democracy Club (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Legislative Director at Fairvote UK (£38–45k)
- Apply by 5 November: Head of Communications at Electoral Reform Society (£44–52k)
- Open Deadline: Global Financial Controller at Forum for the Future (£47k)
- Apply by 31 October: Network and Delivery Manager at The Democratic Society (£40–50k)
- Apply by 29 October: Policy Manager at Full Fact (£42–48k)
- Apply by 29 October: Public Affairs Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund (£35–40k)
- Appy by 14 November: Research Assistant at New Economics Foundation (£28–31k)
- Apply by 31 October: Data Systems Coordinator at Young Citizens (£24–27k)
Unsalaried job listings
- Open Deadline: Contract Specialist (Part-time) at Purpose
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.
Thanks to everyone who joined us this week for Democracy Check-Ins. This week we were joined by Alex King — Shared Future CIC, Jon Morter — Progressive Alliance, Jessie Joe Jacobs — Democracy Network Coordinator, Jon Narcross — Electoral Reform Society, Liz Crosbie — Reboot GB, James Robertson — Sortition Foundation, Shaun Roberts — Unlock Democracy and Josiah Mortimer — MyLondon. Thanks again to the Election Bill Slack and Office Hours digests for keeping us up to date on all things Election Bill.
See you next time, add to your calendar
James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team