UK Democracy Bulletin, 23rd September 2022
Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding, Max Roche and Louise Dunmore of The Centre for Democracy & UK Democracy Network. Read by 400+ 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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- King Charles III proclaimed King
- Labour may abolish House of Lords if it wins next election
- Democracy Club announces new CEO Shabira Papain
- #Labour4PR tops Labour Party Conference motions again
- Not My King republican protesters arrested in heavy handed policing approach
- Political System Reform crowdsourced messaging guide published
- Rosie Cooper MP takes the Chiltern Hundreds
In case you missed it…
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Thanks to our contributors
Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Gavin Barker — Citizen Network, Paul Inskip — IC-UK, David Jubb — Sortition Foundation, Jessie Joe Jacobs — UK Democracy Network, Will Stringer — Sortition Foundation, Jon Morter — @TheProgAlliance, Mohammed Afridi — Civic Power Fund, Charlie Mansell — The Campaign Company and Colin Gordon — Grassroots for Europe.
Sign the Ecosystem Pledge
The Ecosystem Pledge is a statement of intent, now backed by 73 signatory organisations from across the democracy sector, including Involve, Democracy Network, 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 email@example.com.
Online Safety Bill — Weekly Office Hours
Is your organisation working around the Online Safety Bill? Join the Online Safety Bill Office Hours — a weekly Zoom call to discuss emerging news and updates on this critical piece of legislation, hosted by Fair Vote UK. Get in touch with Kyle Taylor if you’d like an invite.
Liz Truss reportedly planning to ‘dilute’ the Online Safety Bill
Free speech concerns have been expressed from both left and right over wording in the Online Safety Bill saying speech that was ‘legal but harmful’ must be addressed. Truss says ‘tweaks’ are needed to protect free speech (paywall).
Research Brief published on Data Protection and Digital Information Bill
The bill was announced over the summer to modernise the UK’s data protection framework. A new research briefing from the House of Commons Library outlines the background behind the bill and the future data protection framework being proposed.
Princes Charles proclaimed King Charles III
An Accession Council convened at St James’s Palace, the official residence of the sovereign, to proclaim the successor to Queen Elizabeth II.
The Democracy Club announce new CEO
Shabira Papain, founder of People Street, has been announced as the new CEO of the Democracy Club. Shabira has a strong background in digital inclusion, recently as Head of Health Equalities & Digital Inclusion at NHSX, the digital arm of the NHS.
Political System Reform — A Messaging Guide
Over the summer, UK Democracy Network launched a new messaging guide on political system reform. Produced using a participatory cross-movement framing project led by Sortition Foundation involving over a year of workshops, focus groups and surveys, the guide is for campaigners, communications, press and spokespeople or anyone else trying to talk about changing the political system in the UK, in order to bolster democracy and increase public participation in decision making Check out the guide here.
Sortition Foundation preparing new Citizens In Power resources
Citizens In Power is a new project by Sortition Foundation designed to support organisations to design citizen-led governance. Contact Will at Sortition Foundation to find out more. Read up on Sortition Foundation’s summary of the latest deliberative process / citizens’ assembly news across the world, not forgetting SF’s recent work on the Scottish Parliaments’s Citizens’ Panel on Participation.
Demos notes online abuse has changed from Johnson to Truss
Demos Junior Researcher Alice Dawson has identified clear sexist themes in recent weeks with the access of Liz Truss as Prime Minister, noting their intelligence is far more likely to be questioned and her appearance commented upon, as well as those of her female Cabinet colleagues, invoking typical gendered tropes about women in public life. Demos has also announced their programme of events over this year’s conference season.
Nesta launch new Democratic Innovation and Digital Participation report
With trust in political representatives and our democratic system at an all-time low, the case for building more inclusive and participatory systems of governance is growing. Nesta’s report Democratic innovation and digital participation Harnessing collective intelligence for 21st-century decision-making is based on insights from global examples of digital democratic innovation, and in particular, three pilots from the COLDIGIT project: a citizens’ assembly in Trondheim, Norway; participatory budgeting in Gothenburg, Sweden; and participatory budgeting in Helsinki, Finland. The work is a collaboration between Nesta, Digidem Lab, University of Gothenburg, University of Helsinki and SINTEF funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Democratic Yorkshire launches
New alliance of Yorkshire-based democracy groups forms around electoral reform, written constitution and devolution issues.
Republic calls for protests in lead up to King Charles’ coronation, condemns police action
Graham Smith, Chief Executive of republican campaign group Republic, criticised the actions of police against anti-monarchy protesters, announcing new protests around the coronation of King Charles III.
Democracy R&D Conference, Berlin, 28–30 September
Held in Berlin, the annual conference of the Democracy R&D network is this year focused on three main streams: political buy-in, inclusive participation, and democracy in times of crisis. Find out more. Democracy Network will be in attendance.
Citizen Network & Cornwall Compass to launch Cornwall Declaration of Democracy
Citizen Network are working with Cornwall Compass to engender cross party support in Cornwall for democratic renewal and the take up of proportional representation. Cornwall Compass are due to launch the Cornwall Declaration of Democracy, a document outlining the problems facing the county and garnering support for electoral reform as a solution. The two organisations are also planning a survey to assess the level of support for devolution in Cornwall.
After Participation — new report seeks to expand modern democratic imaginary
In a new age where democracy is no longer the only option, they argue, the Untitled Group on Democracy including input from Demsoc, Alternative UK, Das Progressive Zentrum and others came together in Spring 2022 to discuss what practices and ideals are missing from our democratic imaginary. The new report, After Participation: Imagining Democracy in the Age of Conflict, outlines some of the sentiments held within those conversations, moving away from the idea that we simply need to add more participative processes to current structures, and examines what democracy could mean if we broadened our collective imaginary and shared perceptions of democracy itself.
Demsoc on the role of participatory ecosystems
Way back in February Demsoc examined participatory ecosystems as part of their quarterly ‘DemsocNext10’ series on the future of democracy. Where participatory ecosystems are similar to organic models, made up organisms interacting with each other, Demsoc spent time analysing how they relate to others as part of this democratic organism, inspired by Civic Square in Birmingham and Every One Every Day in Barking and Dagenham.
Onward report looks at causes behind youth detachment from democracy
According to Onward, young people are more detached from society than ever before leading to a generational slide away from democratic norms and towards authoritarianism. In a new report, ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’, Onward look at the drivers behind this youth disenchantment and offers possible methods of driving greater social and political engagement.
Women’s Equality Party Annual Conference to go online this November
WEP will host their annual conference on the 26th-27th of November. The conference has moved online due to concerns about the cost of living crisis and rising covid cases. Join them across the weekend for the chance to discuss the policies the party should be taking forward.
PSA Parliaments invites proposals for annual conference
This year’s PSA Parliaments Annual Conference will be held in Birmingham and online on 3–4 November 2022. The conference theme is ‘What next?’ and will consider a range of questions from the next scandal to hit parliament to what parliamentary reform practitioners should focus on next. There is an open call to submit papers on anything connected with this theme.
Sheila McKechnie Foundation host a range of training sessions this Autumn
SMK have a number of training sessions available this Autumn including sessions on devolved power and how to influence at a local level, how to get savvier with digital campaigning, and the power of community organising in achieving change. Check out the full range of trainings coming up this Autumn.
Will Snell, Chief Executive of The Fairness Foundation, announces launch date for The Fairness Tool
The Fairness Foundation will launch their online tool, The Fairness Index, with a webinar on 19th October. The tool, which aims to help social change organisations define and measure unfairness, analyses statistics by examining five key gaps in British society linked to the ‘fair necessities’.
Stir to Action’s November community engagement course is open for booking.
A two day residential course by Stir to Action, Art of Invitation: creative approaches to community engagement, is being held by Selgars Mill from the 23rd to 25th November. Located in Mid Devon the course will cover topics such as approaches to engaging people in creative, collective responses to systemic challenges facing their communities, and creative processes and activities that can activate and inspire people to participate in bringing about change.
Hear from global communities using deliberative assemblies at this year’s ReWorlding conference
The second edition of ReWorlding will take place from September 30th to October 2nd offering a chance to hear from communities in East Africa, Chile and Scotland on their experiences using deliberate assemblies or community-based decision-making processes. As well as looking at how and why they adopted these processes, the event will explore how these mechanisms challenge traditional power structures and help reinstate grassroots autonomy.
The Campaign Company monitoring public impact of royal transition
Charlie Mansell and the team at the Campaign Company mainly work with local authorities, NGOs, charities and trade unions on community engagement, including citizens juries and PB. They are currently monitoring the public impact of the death of the Queen, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Contact Charlie to find out more about what they’ve observed.
Grassroots for Europe organising around democratic issues
Whilst they primarily focus on the campaign for the UK to rejoin the EU, Grassroots for Europe — a coalition of more than 80 local citizen groups, now tends to spend their energy working with other democracy organisations on countering attacks on UK democracy through groupings such as the Police Bill Alliance or the Democracy Defence Coalition. They are currently organising a workshop on the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on UK democracy.
Elect Her is hiring
Elect Her is looking for freelancers and new recruits to join its Board of Directors. Board members will serve a tenure of two years whilst freelancers will join for a range of projects running this Autumn. Find out more on their website.
Liberty hiring investigative journalist
Working on Liberty’s new investigative journalism project focused on exposing and challenging abuses of power and violations of human rights, the role is full time and will focus on migrants’ rights and policing. Find out more and apply by 10th October.
Public Interest News Foundation looking for a researcher
The role is focused on helping PINF with their 2023 PINF Index based on a large survey of 100 independent publishers across the UK. Find out more and apply.
Royal Society of the Arts hiring Head of Delivery
The RSA is hiring for a Head of Delivery for their new Design for Life strategy. Find out more on their website.
Kings College SU to hire a Democracy Development Coordinator
The Democracy Development Coordinator will work within the Community Engagement department to develop KCLSU’s democratic practices, policy and procedures. This is a full-time role and the application deadline is October 10th.
Perspectiva is hiring
Perspectiva is a group of ‘expert generalists’ exploring alternative forms of economic management and political cooperation. They’re currently on the hunt for a Director of Operations, Community Builder and Research Assistant to join their expanding team. They are also looking for new trustees and anyone with a background in audio-visual production to work with them on a consultancy basis. Get in touch for more details on the roles.
Labour may abolish House of Lords if it wins next election, leaked report reveals
The leaked constitutional review, seen by the Guardian, recommends abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an upper house of nations and regions, as well as handing sweeping new powers to local regions and devolved nations. Additional recommendations include, new tax powers for some devolved governments, powers for local people to promote bills in Parliament via democratically elected bodies, a constitutional guarantee of social and economic rights and powers for mayors on education, transport and research funding. The review recommends a crackdown on standards in central government and parliament, including a citizens’ jury being able to rule on complaints — and he recommends banning most second jobs for MPs, and a new code of conduct to replace the ailing ministerial code, plus additional powers for the Electoral Commission.
Public opinion of King Charles III improves dramatically
Public polling of King Charles over recent years has remained fairly steady, but low, with a YouGov survey in May finding Britons split on his prospects at 32% for and 32% against whether or not he would make a good king. With the death of Queen Elizabeth II and his proclamation, his polling has shot up to 63% favourable, and just 15% disapproving.
Letter to PACAC reveals key developments on implementation of Elections Act
Paul Scully MP, Minister of State for Levelling Up, has written to William Wragg MP, Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee providing new insight into the Government’s approach to the implementation of the Election Act. The letter indicates that due to the complexity of the implementation the full reforms are being implemented in phases through next year and finishing in 2024, to ease pressure on electoral services and to maintain the ‘no-fail’ nature of the UK’s electoral infrastructure.
A vision for a reformed political system is a vote-winner, argue Ruth Lister and Luke Williams
Writing for Labourlist last week, Ruth Lister, Board Member at Compass, and Luke Williams, Council Member at Unlock Democracy, argue that there is ‘overwhelming demand’ for Labour to ‘show more positive vision’ of how we can refresh our political system. With trust in politicians at record lows, there is a clear case to be made to ‘modernise the creaking political system that puts them in power and allows them to get away with so much’.
Labour for a New Democracy reports Labour Conference motions for PR top 140
Once again, PR motions top the table again at Labour’s annual conference with more than 140 CLPs backing motions, and more than 370 CLPs (some 60% of all CLPs in England) now have a policy in favour of PR, in addition to a majority of affiliated unions now in favour of electoral reform, L4ND are rightly excited about their prospects for Liverpool next week.
Constitutional reform must be complemented with proportional representation, says Labour for a New Democracy
L4ND has published a new report, warning that Labour’s plans for constitutional reform will not deliver on its objectives unless they include plans to switch to a system of proportional representation for general elections. Writing for LabourList Caroline Osborne and Joe Sousek wrote: “If devolution alone could indeed mitigate Britain’s crisis of democracy, one would expect highly devolved countries with winner-takes-all systems (such as Canada, Australia and the US) to have healthier democracies. Yet…all such countries have experienced a similar long-term collapse in public satisfaction with their democracy as the UK.”
Integrity & Transparency
Police face backlash as republican protesters arrested over royal mourning period
Civil liberties groups Big Brother Watch, Liberty and NetPol have criticised police over the arrests of anti-monarchy protesters over the royal mourning period. Arrests included a man heckling Prince Andrew, a man in Edinburgh arrested for shouting “who elected him?” and several protesters staging protests on the Royal Mile including a young woman holding a republican placard. In London, Paul Powesland, a barrister, held a blank piece of paper near Parliament and was threatened with arrest if he wrote ‘Not My King’ on it. Jodie Beck at civil rights group Liberty stated in response to the arrests, ‘protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right. It is very worrying to see the police enforcing their broad powers in such a heavy-handed and punitive way to clamp down on free speech and expression.’
Royal Wedding protester reflects on anti-royal dissent over the last decade
Writing for the Network for Police Monitoring, Hannah Chutzpah reflects on their arrest during the royal wedding period in 2011 and the effect this has had on them and their perception of the police. Hannah was arrested for dressing up in zombie fancy dress in a coffee shop some distance away from the wedding proceedings. More than 55 were arrested on the day of the royal wedding in 2011 using blanket stop and search powers, including 21 further ‘pre-emptive arrests’ the night before the wedding. The High Court later upheld these arrests.
Human rights law professor doubts police grounds for republican arrests
Professor David Mead at the University of East Anglia, specialist in UK Human Rights Law, analysed the legal arguments and ramifications of the recent arrests of anti-monarchy protesters across the UK. Professor Mead states that ‘without any evidence of likely violence, the police probably should not have acted … Even with heightened current public sensitivities, being provoked by a simple sign proclaiming “not my king” is probably not reasonable’. Mead suggests that the arrests may bring into question whether such open-ended common law policing discretion sits well in a liberal democracy.
Automated policing helped kill Chris Kaba, argues Griff Ferris
Griff Ferris, Senior Legal and Policy Officer at Fair Trials, writing for Novara Media argues that Chris Kaba’s killing by police in London was a result of expanded automated policing, that the vehicle he was driving was linked to a previous “firearms incident” despite not being registered to Kaba. In the wake of Kaba’s killing fourteen rights groups wrote to Met Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley calling on him to end the force’s use of controversial automated policing technologies. A coroner’s inquest into Mr Kaba’s death is due to open on 4 October, the Met Police firearms officer involved has been suspended from duty.
How the police map protest movements, new report from Parliament Security and Intelligence Committee
For the first time, a new report released by Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Committee has given us the Matrix (threshold and terminology matrix) that determines who is potentially categorised as an ‘aggravated activist’ and at what level. How campaigners are categorised will lead, in turn, to the kind of policing operation they can expect to have used against them.
Stop and Search powers disproportionately target protesters, new figures reveal
The use of stop and search powers increased by more than a fifth during weekends where protests were taking place in central London. Big Brother Watch has revealed data from an investigation into the misuse of the policing tactic that, aside from special circumstances, can only be used for limited reasons. “Our research shows an alarming pattern of police disproportionately using existing powers to deliberately target people exercising their right to protest … The public order bill would grant officers new protest-specific stop and search powers which can be used without suspicion. This is a disaster for civil liberties in the UK.” said Mark Johnson, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch.
Byline Intelligence team maps Truss’s network of advisors and donors
Liz Truss has won the campaign to become the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister — but she relied on an extensive network of donors to do so. The Byline Intelligence team has mapped out who these donors are and have taken a look at her new advisors to get a sense of the interests and ideological positions that will have a stake in the current government. A further investigation has revealed that six cabinet members, including Truss herself, have funding ties to Conservative groups that are themselves heavily connected to The Mercer Family Foundation — a billionaire pro-Trump lobby responsible for funding a number of far-right groups in America.
MP Paula Barker suggests centralised system of governance will lead to more scandals
During a Commons debate earlier this month MP Paula Barker argued the UK lacks any sophisticated or robust mechanism for upholding standards in public life and suggested a more thorough method of enforcing such standards is needed. Under the current system she said “far too much power is invested in the executive branch in an overly centralised system of governance — a centralisation of power that is incomparable to our counterparts — so I fear that the very nature of our democracy will inevitably see us lurch from scandal to scandal.” Barker also welcomed Full Fact’s commitment to providing mechanisms for scrutinising public statements and the transparency this would engender in political debate.
Labour MP Rosie Cooper steps down, triggers byelection
The West Lancashire MP facing death threats from banned neo-Nazi groups has resigned. Taking the Chiltern Hundreds for the moment, the Speaker will soon issue a writ for a byelection for the 8,000 Labour majority seat.
Zack Polanksi elected as deputy leader of The Green Party
Polanksi has been elected as the next deputy leader of The Green Party, although just 12.5% of the party membership took part in the vote. Polanski says he recognises the party ‘faces an enormous challenge with the first past the post voting system’, but with record gains in local councillor elections, he says he’s confident that there is an appetite amongst the electorate for a new kind of politics. Zack is a London Assembly Member and Chair of London’s Environment Committee.
Devolved Democracy & Local Government
Devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire scrutinised by IPPR
A new devolution deal was announced last month for York and North Yorkshire that will see a new combined authority with devolved authority governing the two regions. The new authority will gain specific devolved powers over education, transport, housing and more, with a regional mayor elected in 2024. IPPR takes a closer look at the new arrangement and considers what this means for the region.
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council set to hold a People’s Jury on the Climate Change Crises
On the 26th September Shared Future are facilitating a People’s Jury in partnership with Darwen Borough Council. A representative group of 30 residents will look at what needs to be done in homes, businesses and in the local area to help tackle the climate change crisis.
Democracy & Media
A shortlist of entries for the Media Freedom Awards due to be published in late September
UK Journalists championing the public’s right to know and holding power to account will be celebrated at an awards ceremony in London on 9th November. Awards will include News Media Organisation of the Year, Freedom of Information Award and Investigation of the Year and Campaign of the Year.
The Public Interest News Foundation begins its Autumn Leadership Programme
15 independent newsrooms from across the UK will take part in the annual programme which aims to help publishers produce high quality content that meets people’s needs enabling better informed citizens and cohesive communities. If you’d like to know more or enquire about next year’s programme, contact Joe Mitchell.
European Union reveals plans for new media freedom laws
The European Union has announced plans to introduce a European Media Freedom Act. The Commission has criticised Slovenia, Hungary and Poland in recent years for limiting the freedom of their national media, but now they suggest there is a risk of political interference in more than 20 member countries. The new act aims to safeguard the freedom of the media across the continent by preventing state spying and state direction of the media, as well as secure funding for public service media and attempt to make media ownership more transparent.
The sector needs more funders, says David Jubb, Sortition Foundation
Though democracy, the rule of the people, is the key bedrock of our society and political system — the systems, organisations and projects that seek to maintain, educate and advocate for democracy norms and practices have extremely limited resources. David Jubb, Co-Director at the Sortition Foundation, makes the comparison between the cultural sector and the democracy sector — the former receives approximately £1.5bn per annum, the latter receives a paltry £3–4m in total.
Russia strips independent media outlet of its licence
Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Russia, has been stripped of its media licence. The paper has been a stalwart of the media scene in Russia since it was established in 1993, carving out a reputation as the leading investigative paper. The new ruling amounts to ‘informational genocide’, says editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, and will make it far harder for the outlet to investigate and critique the Russian authorities.
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 25 Sept: Press and Campaigns Officer at CitizensUK (£26,623 (plus £3,000 London Weighting where applicable)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Apply by 30 Sept: Local Media Coordinator at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 30 Sept: Communications Coordinator at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 30 Sept: Video editing and publishing manager at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 3 Oct: Director of Operations at Perspectiva (£40,000–50,000)
- Apply by 3 Oct: 2 x Trustees at Perspectiva (Voluntary)
- Apply by 3 Oct: Community Builder at Perspectiva (£30,000–40,000)
- Apply by 3 Oct: Research Assistant at Perspectiva (£20,000–30,000)
- Apply by 4 Oct: Head of Delivery at RSA (£62,000–72,000)
- Apply by 7 Oct: Senior Campaign Technologist at 38Degrees (£56,000 — £63,000)
- Apply by 10 Oct: Investigative Journalist at Liberty (£37,850)
- Apply by 10 Oct: Democracy Development Coordinator at KCLSU (£28,563 — £34,514)
- Apply by 10 Oct: Board of Directors at Elect Her (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Trustee at Speakers Corner Trust (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Chief Operating Officer at Democracy Club (£40k pro rata)
- Open Deadline: Board Member — Treasurer at New Economy Organisers Network (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Board Member — New Economy Expertise at New Economy Organisers Network (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Legislative Director at Fair Vote UK (£38–45k)
- Open Deadline: COP26 Communications Officer at Wellbeing Economy Alliance (£30k pro rata)
- Open Deadline: Researcher at Public Interest News Foundation (£15p/h)
- Various democratic services roles available via Association of Democratic Services Officers
Unsalaried job listings #ShowTheSalary
- Apply by 10 Oct: Freelancer at Elect Her (renumeration not provided)
- Open Deadline: Contract Specialist (Part-time) at Purpose (salary not given)
- Open Deadline: Campaigns Adviser at Digital Action (salary not given)
- Open Deadline: Senior Account Director / Senior Campaign Director at College Green Group (salary not given)
- Open Deadline: Business Development Manager at College Green Group (salary not given)
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