UK Democracy Bulletin, 27th January

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

  • Police Bill everything you need to know
  • Partygate no confidence vote looms
  • Notwestminster save the date, grab your ticket
  • Local Elections no sign of promised covid-safe funds
  • New reports provide stark public outlook on integrity and corruption

Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill

Updates from Kathleen Christie — Police Bill Alliance Convenor:

PSCS Bill passes Lords Committee phase, 14 amendments voted down

According to UCL, this vote represents the single biggest Lords vote against a government since 1999. The amendments voted down related to Part 3 / Protest.

The Senedd votes to reject proposals to criminalise trespass

Following a powerful campaign by Welsh Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, the Senedd has voted to withhold legislative consent on Part 4 of the bill related to the criminalisation of trespass.

Police Bill Alliance strategy over next critical weeks

Kathleen Christie reports that all efforts are now turning to the parliamentary ‘ping pong’ which is expected to take place week beginning 7th Feb or 21st Feb. The Police Bill Alliance’s strategy will follow a constituency based approach, targeting backbench Conservatives where the MP is most likely to rebel or where alliance partner local groups are strongest. Focus will remain on Part 3 / Protest. These alliance partner groups include: Grassroots for Europe; Quakers in Britain; Friends of the Earth; Amnesty International UK; Greenpeace; Christian Aid and a new ethical business alliance with 200 members including the Body Shop and Patagonia.

Democracy Sector

Notwestminster — it’s coming

Diane Sims and the team at Notwestminster are in the final stages of preparations for this year’s free, friendly, open, volunteer-run, physical, in-real life, face-to-face day of workshops on local democracy. Notwestminster 2022: The future is unwritten will be held at the University of Huddersfield on Saturday 26th February, grab your ticket now!

London Funders — Why 2022 is an important year for democratic engagement

London Funders have published a briefing on why this year is a key year for funders to step forward and back democratic engagement projects and initiatives. The briefing unfortunately vastly overstates the funding going towards democracy projects — suggesting £165m in London alone! We can but dream.

Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK provides stark public outlook for integrity in British politics

Sarah Castell, CEO of Involve, highlights the fresh interim findings of their recent partnership with UCL’s Constitution Unit. After six weekends of intensive discussions, assembly members produced a range of concerning statements concerning the state of British democracy. The strongest theme was dissatisfaction and concern over a perceived lack of integrity among politicians. Alan Renwick, Director of The Constitution Unit, summarised the findings, ‘almost every member of the assembly, regardless of their political allegiance, was angry and frustrated and wanted their elected representatives to do better’.

Demos interviewing activists on the impact of the pandemic on their activities

In order to better understand the political impact of the pandemic, Demos are interviewing activists from across the spectrum who were involved in the powerful movements and moments that shaped our political experience of the pandemic, from mutual aid groups to Black Lives Matter and Insulate Britain. If you’d like to find out more about this piece of work, get in touch with Ciaran Cummins, Researcher at Demos. On a slightly separate note, if you’re up for it — Ciaran is pretty keen on setting up a democracy book club/irl meetup.

Frances Scott nominated for UK Diversity Awards

Director of 50:50, Frances Scott, has been nominated for the UK Diversity Awards in Liverpool next week on 4th February. Good luck Frances!

Are you working in a UK government policy team? TPXimpact needs you!

Deliberative Democracy Lead at TPXimpact (previously FutureGov), Kelly McBride, is soon to be on the lookout for 12 people working across government policy teams to participate in a series of workshops assessing the impact of climate assemblies on public policy. Find out more and get in touch with Kelly here.

Big Tent Ideas is back

Trin Gong, Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent, is currently setting up the ticketing for this year’s festival in Bristol. The festival will be held on 11th June and the theme is Transitions. Stay tuned for more.

Reflecting on last year’s Pew attitudes-to-democracy research

Joe Mitchell, democracy flâneur and Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation, highlights last year’s research revealing more than 87% of UK citizens in early 2021 wanted changes to the political system — and 52% think that complete reform or major changes are needed — that’s massive!

Compassion in Politics working on a debate and survey report on standards and lying in politics

Matt Hawkins, Co-Director at Compassion in Politics, and their team, are working on writing up the results to a deep-dive survey into the culture of politics amongst MPs and their staff, in partnership with The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The results will be presented to their APPG and will form the basis for a new campaign. CiP are also working with Plaid Cymru on a debate on standards and lying in politics, starting with this EDM.

Naked Politics working to develop democratic participation in marginalised young people

Director and Founder of Naked Politics, Banseka Kayembe, is working to provide educational sessions, guidance and in-depth support to 18–25 year olds across the UK, focused on the importance of democracy and how they can exercise their democratic rights. But more importantly than that, they’re providing a space for young people to be heard and get them interested in politics.

Scottish Government responds to the Scottish Climate Assembly

The Scottish Government has responded in full to the 81 recommendations made by Assembly members at the Scottish Climate Assembly.

Titus Alexander looking to commission development of a ‘democracy gateway’

A public portal for interacting with the myriad organisations, projects and networks that make up the democracy sector, the Democracy Gateway would aim to make it easier to find the people and organisations that can help citizens take part in democratic processes. Titus is now seeking to commission the design and development of the portal. Contact Titus for more information.

Democracy Research Collaboration Toolkit

Graham Smith, Director at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, George Bolton, PhD University of Southampton, and Jessie Joe Jacobs, Coordinator of the Democracy Network, have teamed up to better understand the opportunities and barriers to collaboration between democracy organisations and academics, and how we might build a more productive relationship between the two.

Climate Change Citizens’ Juries active across the UK

Citizens in Furness and Southwark are currently considering the question of addressing climate change in their area, reports Alex King, Comms & Marketing Associate at Shared Future CIC. The jurors are currently listening to expert advice before forming their recommendations.

Participatory budgeting in Blaenavon with VocalEyes

Susan Rodaway and the team at VocalEyes are kicking off a co-produced participatory budgeting project in Blaenavon, working with the Town Council, Unitary Authority, Local Health Board and others. Susan also announces that VocalEyes have rebranded and launched a new website.

Deaton Review of Inequalities publish draft paper on political equality

In this hefty draft text, Pablo Beramundi of Duke University, Tim Besley of LSE and Margaret Levi of Stanford University, focus on equal consideration as an ideal for political equality in democratic settings.

Sheila McKechnie’s annual survey out soon

Word on the grapevine says the survey will show that the sector is increasingly worried with ongoing political developments and direction of travel, but also determined to keep campaigning.

Integrity & Transparency

Conservative MPs accuse party whips of blackmail

PACAC Chair William Wragg reports claims include having money pulled from constituencies or a promise of funding for the ‘right vote’. Former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford also made blackmail allegations, claiming that whips told him his constituency would lose funding for a new school unless he voted with the government. Downing Street is seemingly refusing to investigate the accusations, saying they would ‘look carefully at the evidence presented to them, but were not seeking it’. Regardless, William Wragg is currently preparing to meet the Metropolitan Police to discuss the No 10 blackmail claims.

Cabinet Minister states Partygate has ‘damaged our democracy’

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, admits that the string of parties said to have taken place in Downing Street over the course of the pandemic have ‘damaged’ democracy in the UK.

Blackmail claims further erode Britain’s reputation overseas, amidst global democratic backsliding

UK’s democratic standing and position as a role model for developing democracies at risk, say experts. Recent allegations of blackmail and corruption compound the damaging behaviour of the Prime Minister in recent years, including the threat to break international law. Amongst those warning of the change were Douglas Alexander, former Minister and now Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, who sought to link the behaviour of the Government in recent years and the damage it has caused against the backdrop of encroachment by alternative models put forward by Russia and other states.

YouGov poll shows Britons overwhelmingly think corruption is present in British politics

Boris Johnson has said the UK is “not remotely a corrupt country”, but the British public resoundingly disagree. According to polling, 40% of the public think there is ‘a lot of corruption’, with a further 40% who perceive a ‘fair amount of corruption’ in British politics.

Elections

99 days to the local elections… and no sign of promised funds for COVID-safe local election delivery

Whilst last year’s rules for more flexible proxy votes to take account of the pandemic continue, Becca Crosier, Deputy Director of the Whitehall Elections Division, said there has been ‘no firm conclusions’ (paywall) on funding this year, when extra COVID safety measures are still expected to be required. In addition, the Deputy Director also ruled out any experiments or shifts to online voting in the short term, saying ‘there isn’t a way of doing it is that is sufficiently secure’.

Boris Johnson no confidence vote looms

As reports trickle in of Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, Chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, over the Partygate scandal, leadership contenders drop subtle hints as to their intentions — with Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as the likely front runners.

David Gauke argues to abolish the role of the Tory Party membership in electing their leader

As talk of leadership elections to replace the ailing Prime Minister heat up, David Gauke, writing for Conservative Home, makes the argument for the abolition of the role of the party faithful in deciding their next leader. His argument is that for a party whose leader is more often than not the sitting PM, that the country cannot wait ~4 weeks for a decision to be made, especially in the case of the death of the PM. For information on the process of any leadership elections, the Institute for Government produced this handy guide.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

New report from Demos on Relational Local Government

The Social State calls for a system of relational public services to better bring together and knit local communities with the community at large and those who provide public services. The first part of a major new research programme at Demos, the project aims to build a credible policy agenda for 21st public services with citizen experience at the centre. The report includes lots of new research on public attitudes to democratic engagement in the design and delivery of local services.

Petition for councils in England to meet remotely growing

The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) and Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) are petitioning for councils in England to have the right to meet remotely, based on local circumstances. The law does not currently allow for this. Find out more and sign the petition here.

Democratic Reform

Citizen Network prepare to launch new constitutional charter

End Westminster Rule outlines 10 key demands for radical reform based on the charter of the Chartist movement. Simon Duffy and Gavin Barker of the Citizen Network, report a provisional date for the launch of the charter is spring 2022. The document will be submitted to main parliamentary parties asking for a response.

New OECD policy paper on institutionalising deliberative democracy

The paper makes eight recommendations for how public officials and policy makers can create structures that allow representative deliberation to become an integral part of how certain types of decisions are taken. Read the policy paper.

Democratic Yorkshire launches

Supported by Citizen Network, a new campaign Democratic Yorkshire has launched — calling for a new citizen-framed constitutional settlement for Yorkshire, including a regional parliament, a regional executive, tax and spend powers and autonomy within the government of the UK.

Democracy & Media

Government announces BBC license fee to be frozen and abolished completely by 2027

The changes announced by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced last week will leave the corporation with a funding gap of more than £250 million, according to BBC Director General Tim Davie.

Coordinating opposition to the BBC License Fee freeze

Sam Guiness, Founder of the Coalition Against Digital Coercive Control, is pushing to bring together a campaign against the BBC License Fee freeze. Sam has drawn up a document of data and arguments on the significance of the BBC and its impact on British and global cultural life.

And Finally…

Pegasus spyware used to spy on Polish opposition parties, what does this mean for elections?

Notes From Poland editor Stanley Bill, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Polish Studies Programme at the University of Cambridge, talks with John Scott-Railton, Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab, whose work recently uncovered the use of spyware to hack the phones of people connected to Poland’s opposition.

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.

Thanks to everyone who joined us this week for Democracy Check-Ins. This week we were joined by Frances Scott — Director at 50:50 Parliament, Kathleen Christie — Convenor at Police Bill Alliance, Susan Rodaway — Operations Director at VocalEyes Democracy CIC, Kelly McBridge — Deliberative Democracy Lead at TPXimpact, Titus Alexander of Democracy Matters, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation & The Centre for Democracy, Jon Morter of The Progressive Alliance, Alex King — Comms & Marketing Associate at Shared Future CIC, Matt Hawkins — Co-Director at Compassion in Politics, Sam Guiness — Founder at Coalition Against Digital Coercive Control, Ciaran Cummins — Researcher at Demos, Diane Sims — Co-organiser at Notwestminster and Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent.

See you next time, add to your calendar

James, Molly, 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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