UK Democracy Bulletin, 29th June 2022
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, and Pilar Girvan of The 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: email@example.com
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- all upcoming events from across the sector (7) add your event
- all current job adverts (20) add your vacancy
- grants and paid fellowships (50+) add your grant
- Democracy Network Survey share your experiences of the network
- UNISON backs PR
- Index of Independent News Publishing 2022 launches
- Bristol Mayor boycotted by national and local news
- Royal Society of the Arts grants available for public engagement projects
Thanks to our contributors
Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Alvin Carpio — Founding Director at School of Social Justice, Titus Alexander — Founder at Democracy Matters, Myf Nixon — Communications Manager at mySociety, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation, Sam Welsh — Partnerships Coordinator at Votes for Schools, Oliver Walkden — Communications Coordinator at Young Citizens and Jessie Joe Jacobs — Coordinator at Democracy Network.
Sign the Ecosystem Pledge
The Ecosystem Pledge is a statement of intent, now backed by 72 signatory organisations from across the democracy sector, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
MPs debate lying in Parliament
Yesterday a Private Members Bill proposed by Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts was heard and debated in the chamber. The Bill was sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP (Green), Claire Hanna MP (SDLP), Martyn Day MP (SNP), Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrat) and Dan Carden MP (Labour). The Bill aims to end the practice of wilfully lying in Parliament. See Compassion in Politics’ feed for more on the day’s debate.
Repealing Human Rights Act will make it harder to fight deportation flights, argue campaigners
Charlie Whelton, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Liberty, says the ‘bill will make it easier to deport refugees by almost completely blocking article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights’, thereby ‘refugees and migrants … will find it harder to defend their basic rights and challenge deportation’. Four parliamentary committees and more than 150 organisations have so far called on the Justice Secretary to submit the bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. He has so far refused.
The BIG Democracy Network Survey
The Democracy Network have just launched The Big Democracy Network Survey giving you the opportunity to share your experiences of the Democracy Network so far. This will allow the Network to continue to improve and tailor content and output to support and highlight your interests and involvement in democratic spaces. It also allows the Network to gain a better picture of its diverse potential membership, ensuring the Network is an inclusive and accessible space for all. The deadline is 22nd July 2022 and you’ll be offered a £5 high street gift voucher as a thank you for taking the time to complete the survey.
Add your organisation to Citizen Network’s Constitution Commission Public Letter
Back in December 2020 Gordon Brown reported that he had brought together Scottish and Welsh labour leaders and English mayors to work on a ‘new constitutional offer’. Citizen Network’s public letter calls on Brown to divulge new information about the commission, and in particular, calls on Brown and the commission to consider utilising citizens’ assemblies where possible. If you/your organisation supports the devolution aims set out in the public letter, please consider signing it. Citizen Network are particularly keen on enlisting regional and local grassroots movements who see democratic reform as part of their key aims.
Bond reflects on the evolving situation for campaigners and activists
With the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and with the Public Order Bill just around the corner, Police have a vastly expanded range of new powers to restrict and even criminalise protest. Rosemary Forest, Policy and Advocacy Adviser at Bond, unpicks what we can do about this new situation and how organisations and communities can support one another.
Young Citizens hiring new Trustees, Project Coordinator & Senior Schools Coordinator
What’s it like to be a parent in politics, asks Pregnant Then Screwed, 30th June
Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS) is a charity dedicated to ending the motherhood penalty, supporting tens of thousands of women each year, and successfully campaigning for change. PTS and 50:50 Parliament team up for a special session on how to balance parenthood and a political career. Join Rhiannon Evans, Head of Comms at Mumsnet, and a cross-party panel of councillors on the 30th June. Register now.
New online School of Social Justice launches
The school’s new stated mission is to train the next generation of Martin Luther King’s, says Founding Director Alvin Carpio. Find out more about the School of Social Justice and take a look at their growing range of interviews with global changemakers.
Big Brother Watch are hiring
Big Brother Watch are looking for a Campaign Manager (deadline July 5th) and Digital Communications Manager (rolling deadline) to join them in the battle for greater privacy, freedom of expression and data protection rights. Check out their jobs board for more details on both roles.
Stir to Action’s Playground for the New Economy Festival is back
Returning for its fourth year, the festival is a celebration of the movement for democratic ownership, featuring talks and panels on topics ranging from community wealth building to democratic finance. Whilst full-priced tickets are £125, there are a number of sponsored tickets available for £25 for attendees from marginalised communities, young adults, disabled individuals and those coming from deprived areas. Find your tickets now.
Association for Citizenship Teaching Conference 2022
ACT’s 20th anniversary conference will be a celebration of their work promoting excellence in citizenship education, and a reflection on the overwhelming challenges facing the next generation and how the citizenship curriculum can support transformational outcomes. The conference will be held next week, Tuesday 5th July — Register your ticket now.
mySociety asks, are you using the Climate Action Plan Explorer?
Myf Nixon, Communications Manager at mySociety, wants to know if you’re using their Climate Action Plans Explorer tool. If you are, please get in touch so they can grill you on it for a new case study on the project.
Democracy Messaging Guide Workshop (18th July)
Led by James Robertson of Sortition Foundation and hosted by the Democracy Network, the Democracy Messaging Guide online workshop will run on Monday 18th July (2pm — 4pm). On a mission to communicate in more compelling ways and build public support, in late 2020 a dozen democracy organisations teamed up to produce a messaging guide for the democracy sector. Based on rigorous testing and research, the guide outlines how to frame democratic reform in a way that works to shift public attitudes and behaviour. This jam packed workshop is for anyone trying to talk about changing the political system in the UK. Please register for a place here.
Third of Green Party Women’s committee collectively resign
Earlier this month four members of the Green Party’s Women’s Committee stood down citing “numerous issues with process, procedures, and communication”. According to Bright Green the resigning members were from the wing seeking to make the Party more inclusive for trans people. Last year Green Party Co-Leaders Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley resigned citing internal party conflict over transgender rights.
Extinction Rebellion UK asks, what is a Citizens’ Assembly?
If you want more information on how Citizen’s Assemblies work, then check out these online sessions by Extinction Rebellion on the 5th and 14th of July. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive exploring global examples of how they have worked in practice, check out the online session on the 26th July.
Conservatives becoming more antagonistic towards the constitution, according to new blog
A new blog from Andrew Blick, Senior Advisor to The Constitution Society, suggests there has been a shift within the Conservative Party in how they approach the constitution, from a traditional defence of established institutions to a more open position of antipathy and antagonism. Also, if you missed it in April, check out the report from Constitution Society Research Fellow Daniel Skeffington, ‘The Political Constitution: An Idea Worth Protecting?’ which undertakes a somewhat more extended analysis of British constitutional thought. Worth a read.
UNISON backs Proportional Representation
UNISON’s National Delegate Conference has backed a motion in support of PR. Hailed as a major boost to reform efforts by campaigners, the results follow last October’s vote from Unite which also backed proportional representation. At last year’s Labour conference, opposition from trade unions defeated a motion backing proportional representation despite widespread support from members. The latest vote now sees UNISON — UK’s largest union — join Unite, ASLEF, the Musicians Union, CWU and TSSA in adopting pro-electoral reform stances.
Politics For the Many hold online rally to build momentum for Proportional Representation
Back on 9th June Politics For the Many hosted an online rally to discuss how First Past the Post makes it easier for the Conservative Party to win elections and how we can create a more equitable and fair voting system. Speakers included trade unionists, MPs and electoral reform campaigners, including Jessica Garland, Director of Policy and Research at Electoral Reform Society. If you missed the event you can watch it back via their YouTube channel.
Labour Women’s Network running #Selections4ThisMillenium
Centenary Action Group hosting event on women’s political representation, July 19th
The event will run from 10.30–1pm on July 19th in Parliament, with a panel of MPs followed by Q&A and networking. Email email@example.com to register for the event.
IPPR report launch — How representative is Parliament? 4th July
Join IPPR for their new report launch on the 4th July in Parliament. Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, will give a keynote address to introduce the event, focusing on how well Parliament represents UK society and whether there is a growing representation gap. Register for the event. The session is being held in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Integrity & Transparency
First day of new policing powers, first target: Pro-EU campaigner Steve Bray
For those of you that have passed through Westminster in recent years, you might have met the eccentric pro-EU campaigner covered in EU flags, Steve Bray. Yesterday marked the first day of the new policing powers covered by the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which include powers to restrict ‘one-person’ protests and ‘noisy’ protests. Mark Johnson, Big Brother Watch’s Legal & Policy Officer reports Steve Bray as perhaps their first use of these new powers.
‘Carriegate’ — Did Johnson attempt to appoint his wife as Chief of Staff at Foreign Office?
The Times recently ran an article claiming Boris Johnson, whilst in post as Foreign Secretary, attempted to appoint his wife as Chief of Staff at the Foreign Office. The story appeared in the first edition of the paper on Saturday 18th, but was removed from later editions following apparent pressure from Downing Street. CEO of Best for Britain, Naomi Smith, described the escapade as “a violation of press freedom at a time when public trust is already low”.
Guardian investigation points to monarch’s influence over Scottish laws
A Scottish government memo reveals that ‘it is almost certain’ that draft laws have been secretly changed to secure the Queen’s approval. Previously, the Queen’s representatives have refused to say how many times the Queen has requested legislative alterations as part of the monarch’s consent procedure, but as a result of this latest research by the Guardian — we now know this number totals at least 67 times. Since the start of her reign, the Queen and her son have vetted more than 1,000 laws enacted by the Westminster parliament under the Queen’s consent mechanism.
Lord Geidt resigns over ‘affront’ to the ministerial code
Johnson’s ethics advisor, Lord Geidt, has resigned over concerns that the government intended to take measures that would “risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”. Geidt, the second ethics advisor to quit under Johnson, said he felt the request had put him in an “impossible and odious position”, forcing his resignation. The Labour Party has since lost a vote proposing that MPs should have the power to hold ministers to account in light of Johnson’s refusal to commit to appointing a successor to Geidt.
Civil society organisations sign open letter to Nadine Dorries over ‘rigged consultation’
More than 30 civil society organisations have written a letter to Nadine Dorries expressing their concerns over what they believe to be an unlawful consultation process for the Data Reforms Bill. The signatories, including Liberty, Index on Censorship and Big Brother Watch, say the government has refused to meaningfully engage with civil society organisations and take into account the views of those groups and sectors likely to be affected by the policy.
Procedure Committee to investigate Parliament’s correction procedure
Full Fact report that a new inquiry will take place into Parliament’s correction procedure. Currently, there is no mechanism in place to allow an MP who is not a government minister to correct the parliamentary record if they make a mistake in the House of Commons. Full Fact hopes that the investigation by the procedural committee will yield an important change in how we approach honest political debate.
Major losses for Tories in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton byelections
In Wakefield, a 12.7% swing saw Labour retake the ‘redwall’ seat which they had held since the 1930s before Imran Khan’s win at the 2019 general election. Meanwhile, in Tiverton and Honiton, the traditionally safe Conservative seat was overturned by the Lib Dems in a 30% voter swing. In the early hours Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party chairman, resigned saying someone needed to “take responsibility” for the defeat.
French leftist coalition performs well in elections — a lesson for ‘progressive alliance’ efforts in the UK?
In what was a damaging night for Macron, the coalition of leftist parties known as Nupes became the largest opposition force in the French parliament. The coalition scored no more votes than in the 2017 election, but the decision to jointly field candidates meant that overall, they won more than double their previous total. Compass have long argued this approach as a model that the ‘progressive alliance’ in the UK could emulate.
Bright Green promise to bring increased coverage to all Green Party election nominees
According to Bright Green, previous internal Green Party elections have been more like ‘coronations’ rather than competitive races with the big name going on to win. That’s why this summer they’ve pledged to give significant media coverage to all runners in the deputy leadership elections to provide a detailed analysis of the options open to Green Party voters.
Devolved Democracy & Local Government
Onward report suggests mayoral devolution key to boosting Conservative electoral prospects
A new report from Onward, Give Back Control, urges the government to devolve significant regional powers to local mayors and regional policymakers to better tackle issues in their area. A key part of the government’s Levelling Up strategy, Onward suggest that a strategic program for devolution will be vital to boosting the Conservative’s chances at the next general election.
Scottish Government seeks Supreme Court ruling on independence vote
First minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday told MSPs she wants to hold a second independence referendum on 19 October 2023. To proceed with a lawful vote, the UK Government must provide Holyrood the powers to do so under Section 30 of the Scotland Act. Boris Johnson’s government has so far refused to engage on the matter, forcing the Scottish Government to seek a ruling from the justices of the UK Supreme Court.
Democracy & Media
Index of Independent News Publishing 2022 launch
This year’s Index, conducted by Joe Mitchell and the team at Public Interest News Foundation, is the result of more than 72 surveys from across the independent news sector. The report found that local publishers face significant challenges around revenue, staffing costs and social media giants, but despite this — publishers manage to reach 39m people a year across the UK digitally, with a total print circulation of nearly 300,000. View the full report.
Public Interest News Foundation announce two local news initiatives
In a bid to bolster local news outlets that add ‘democratic, economic and social value to communities’, PINF have announced two new targeted schemes. The Local News Plan will work with communities, civil society and local policymakers to create a shared vision for a new public news scene, whilst the recently launched News for All campaign will work to create a better news economy for the future.
IPPR to hold convention on creating a citizen-serving media
On Wednesday 13th July IPPR will host an in-person conference in London bringing together senior figures from across the media to explore the current challenges facing the sector and how a citizen-serving media could be shaped from the crises. Expect lots of opportunities for participation through interactive sessions, and networking breaks to connect after two years of virtual Oxford Media Conventions.
Over twenty production companies launch bid to prevent privatisation of Channel Four
Twenty-seven production companies have come out against the proposed privatisation of Channel Four. The companies have teamed up with anti-privatisation group, We Own It, to kick off their new campaign — ‘Channel Four Ain’t Broke’. The campaign comes as Tory opposition to the plans is on the rise. Former front bench Tory MP, Jesse Norman, even cited the plans in his letter of no confidence to the Prime Minister saying the “privatisation of Channel 4 is an unnecessary and provocative attempt to address a political non-issue during a time of crisis”.
National and local media boycott Bristol Mayor’s press conferences after local democracy reporters banned from attending
Bristol24/7, BBC, ITV and South West Local Voice have announced they will boycott the fortnightly mayoral press conferences after Local Democracy Reporters (LDRs) were banned from attending. The mayor’s office initiated the ban accusing LDR, Alex Seabrook, of unfair bias after he questioned the mayor on the irony of flying to Vancouver to deliver a 14-minute Ted talk on climate change. Bristol24/7 Editor, Martin Booth, called it a ‘slippery slope’ once the mayor can pick and choose which journalists they want to attend a briefing.
Report finds growth of local ‘news deserts’ across the UK
A new report from The Charitable Journalism Project has found social media groups are increasingly filling a void left by collapsing local media outlets. Quick and helpful at times, unreliable and divisive at others, the reliance on social media networks means key news stories are going unreported and local authorities can act with increasing impunity.
RSA & UKRI funds available for public engagement projects
In collaboration with UK Research and Innovation, the Royal Society of the Arts is offering funding to support pilot projects that challenge the boundaries of conversations between the public, researchers and policymakers. The total value of the fund is £480,000. Find out more and apply here.
Sheila McKechnie Foundation awarded five year grant from Oak Foundation
SMK has been awarded a five year grant from Oak Foundation to lead a participatory ‘power and capacity building programme’ for their grantees working to prevent housing injustice and homelessness across the UK.
Reflecting on the Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2022
This year’s Alliance of Democracies’ Democracy Summit saw democracy activists, civil society, political and business leaders come together on the issues of the moment. Read the summary of this month’s Summit or view the YouTube playback.
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 29 June: Partnerships & Impact Manager at Votes for Schools (£28–32k)
- Apply by 30 June: Chief Executive Officer at Democracy Club (£60–70k
- Apply by 30 June: Python Developer at Democracy Club (£40–50k)
- Apply by 30 June: Head of Network at New Local (£50–60k)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Open Deadline: Trustee at Speakers’ Corner Trust (Voluntary)
- Apply by 4 July: Trustee and Young Trustee at Young Citizen (Voluntary)
- Apply by 14 July: Senior Schools Coordinator at Young Citizens (£27k)
- Open Deadline: Legislative Director at Fairvote UK (£38–45k)
- Apply by 5 July: Head of Events at New Local (£50–60k)
- Apply by 19 July: Project Coordinator at Young Citizens (£24k)
- Apply by 31 July: Investigations Volunteer at Big Brother Watch (Voluntary)
- Apply by 6 July: Project and Programme Officer at Fair by Design (£34 — £40k)
Unsalaried job listings #ShowTheSalary
- Apply by 5 July: Campaigns Manager at Big Brother Watch
- Open Deadline: Business Development Manager at College Green Group
- Open Deadline: Senior Account Director/Senior Campaign Director at College Green Group
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, Pilar and The Centre for Democracy team