UK Democracy Bulletin, 31st May 2022

Fortnightly news, jobs, grants and gossip from the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding, Molly Hudson, Max Roche and Pilar Girvan of The Centre for Democracy. 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: hello@centrefordemocracy.org.uk

Highlights

  • Online Safety Bill RSVP for new office hours and digest
  • Democracy Co-Working Day spend a day working alongside fellow democracy practitioners
  • Constitution Unit state of the constitution conference 2022 announced
  • Activate funding helps secure electoral success in local elections
  • Commission on Political Power new head of state options paper published

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Rebecca Deegan — Founder at I Have A Voice, Sam Welsh — Partnerships Coordinator at Votes for Schools, Myfanwy Nixon — Marketing & Communications Manager at mySociety, Titus Alexander — Founder at Democracy Matters, Harry Wells — Research Assistant at Commission on Political Power, Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent and Perry Walker — Co-Founder at Talk Shop.

Sign the Ecosystem Pledge

With just over a year since we launched the Centre for Democracy, it is one year since we launched the Ecosystem Pledge, now backed by 72 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.

Upcoming Legislation

New research briefings on Public Order Bill

The Public Order Bill was recently introduced to parliament raising concerns from campaigners about what they see as a continued assault on the right to protest. The Network for Police Monitoring and The House of Commons Library have released detailed briefings on protest and police powers and what the new bill will mean for the relationship between the two.

Online Safety Bill opportunities for collaboration

Are you working on the Online Safety Bill? Be sure not to miss Fair Vote UK’s weekly digest of news and updates relating to the Bill’s passage. RVSP for their weekly OSB Office Hours Zoom calls and sign up to the digest by emailing Matt Gallagher.

Full Fact start letter writing campaign to highlight the Online Safety Bill

Full Fact has kicked off a ‘Write to your MP’ campaign on the OSB — Please amplify if you can

Democracy Sector

Spend a day working alongside fellow democracy organisations

On June 29th, The Centre for Democracy are hosting a Democracy Co-Working Day at Newspeak House in London. Our first co-working day was such fun — with more than 20 organisations joining to hang out and work together — that we’re putting on another one. Don’t miss out, RSVP now to give us a better idea of numbers on the day and add a calendar reminder.

The State of the Constitution: Constitution Unit Conference 2022, 22–23 June

In partnership with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) and the Oxford Constitutional Leaders Forum, The Constitution Unit has announced its annual State of the Constitution conference. Free to attend and continuing to take place virtually, the programme touches upon Brexit and the NI Protocol, the Johnson Government’s approach to constitutional standards, the role of the courts, the decline of parliamentary scrutiny and the future of devolution — a packed schedule for a period of growing constitutional tension and unease. Book your ticket now.

Make Votes Matter to hold National Action Day for Proportional Representation

Make Votes Matter are holding a national day of action on Saturday June 11th. They’re teaming up with Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform to build grassroots momentum behind the shift to PR.

I Have A Voice launch applications for mentoring, plan event on compulsory voting

On the 21st of June, I Have A Voice will be hosting a discussion with Kim Leadbeater, MP for Batley and Spen, on whether voting should be made compulsory. Email Rebecca, Founder of I Have A Voice, to book your spot for this London event. IHAV have just opened applications for their 9-month mentoring scheme, find out more.

Votes for Schools looking for a Content Developer

The role involves planning for and developing weekly VotePacks on various issues, helping VfS deliver polls in hundreds of schools across the UK. Find out more and apply here, deadline June 10th.

Join mySociety’s upcoming TICTeC sessions

Whilst their last TICTeC sesion was focused on amplifying the reach of civic tech, their next is focused on climate and societal change, with the next after that on civic tech in hostile environments. mySociety are also hiring a Python Developer, deadline June 6th.

New report from Demos explores democratisation of digital infrastructure

All too frequently liberal democracies have failed to articulate the principles of a democratic digital infrastructure, according to DEMOS. So for the past eighteen months they’ve been exploring the question of what a ‘good internet’ looks like. Their latest report, part of the Good Web Project, explores how a publicly owned digital infrastructure could nurture a democratic internet culture that is vital to sustaining liberal democracy itself.

Talk Shop developing new decision making method

The Win-Win Workout is a new face to face decision making tool. They’re currently testing a version on nuclear power and net zero, with their first public outing at Radix Big Tent Festival on the 11th June (below). They’re planning a new session on the BBC License Fee.

Radix Big Tent Festival is almost here

In Bristol, next Saturday 11th June — Check the programme and book your tickets now. Radix are also looking for a Virtual Office Manager, details here.

DemSoc work with LSE Students’ Union to improve democratic engagement

LSE Students’ Union are undertaking a rigorous Democracy Review to improve the democratic structure of their organisation. DemSoc have been helping them organise a Democracy Summit to gather and learn from the experiences of students at the university which will now be reviewed and turned into a set of workable recommendations for a new and inclusive democratic structure.

Alliance of Democracies’ Democracy Perception Index 2022 published

The Democracy Perception Index is the largest annual study on attitudes to democracy, covering more than 50 countries and polling over 50,000 people, representing more than 75% of the global population. More than 84% of those polled believe democracy it is important their country is a democracy, though 41% feel that there is not enough democratisation within their country. More than 91% of African respondents and more than 80% of Latin American respondents viewed corruption as a threat to their democracy. Economic equality topped the poll as the single biggest threat to democracy around the world.

Democratic Reform

Commission on Political Power publish Head of State options paper

The Commission on Political Power, led by Frances Crook, Baroness Frances D’Souza and Graham Allen, is an independent commission tasked with reviewing the British political system and suggesting a new roadmap aimed at enhancing democracy and legitimacy within the system. The new options paper, Head of State, presents six potential paths for reforming the UK’s head of state.

Republican groups mobilise around the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The Scottish cross-party group, Our Republic, are set to host a rally calling for the establishment of a Republic in Scotland after a poll found that only a minority of Scots support the retention of the monarchy. Meanwhile, campaign group Republic are due to host their first International Anti-Monarchy Conference.

Labour for a New Democracy table 2022 conference motion calling for Proportional Representation

The new motion demands that the Labour party commits to implementing PR in their next manifesto, that they change the electoral system to PR during their first term in office, and that an ‘open and inclusive’ process for deciding on an appropriate electoral system is introduced. L4ND are encouraging all other Constituency Labour Parties to back the motion.

New Local Poll finds strong public support for locally-led solutions

A poll from New Local has found a widespread lack of faith in politicians to solve local issues. 79% said Westminster and Whitehall were taking decisions ‘about people and places they know little about’ whilst 73% said politicians should transfer more power to local areas to tackle issues themselves. New Local are one of a number of organisations that have pledged support for the New Community Power Act in a bid to provide greater regional autonomy. Finally, if you’re interested in joining the team at New Local, they are hiring a Senior Communications Officer.

Integrity & Transparency

‘It’s a bad day for democracy’ — Sue Gray report released

The Sue Gray report released last Wednesday confirms that a culture of partying and impunity over lockdown measures derived from the top of Government. The senior civil servant wrote ‘the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility’ for the ‘culture’ at the ‘heart of government’. Will Walden, Johnson’s former press secretary, called it ‘a bad day for democracy’, whilst opposition leader, Keir Starmer, said those involved had ‘treated the sacrifices of the British people with utter contempt.’ Unlock Democracy responded with launching a new petition calling for the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister and Chancellor to restore accountability in our democracy.

#StopTheRot campaign kicks off calling for greater parliamentary accountability

The #StopTheRot campaign kicked off on Sunday 15th of May calling for an end to the ‘rotten politics’ in the UK and backing a petition to have the ministerial code re-written to allow greater scrutiny over the actions of a sitting Prime Minister. Organised by Open Britain, the petition currently has over 19,000 signatures.

Labour accused of breaking rules on selection of parliamentary candidates in Wakefield by-election

The Labour Party stands accused of breaking their own rules in the selection process of a new candidate for the upcoming Wakefield by-election after the local party received only one of five seats on the panels for longlisting and then shortlisting candidates. The entire 16-person executive of the Wakefield constituency Labour Party (CLP) has resigned over the handling of the process, stating that several strong candidates with local roots were overlooked in the selection process.

Elections

Current Elections Act implementation timelines optimistic at best, undeliverable at worst, states AEA Chief

Peter Stanyon, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, has written to Minister Kemi Badenoch, the current minister responsible for elections. Mr Stanyon reports on the success of the elections process but reports ‘our already straining democratic systems are close to becoming undeliverable’. Read the letter here. Peter Stanyon also wrote to Mick Antoniw MS on the challenging years ahead for electoral administration in Wales.

Labour mulls removing council leaders to improve electoral performance

Stirring the ire of local party activists, the party announced plans to introduce Campaign Improvement Boards (CIBs) to deal with ‘underperforming’ local groups. Whilst the primary aim of the CIBs will be to support local groups that need improvement, NEC member Gemma Bolton has accused the party leadership of an ‘anti-democratic stitch up’, suppressing local party democracy.

Funding from Activate helps secure electoral success for women in local elections

Activate has been busy providing financial support for women in their local election campaign bids. Four of their grantees, Nanouche Umeadi, Simita Kumar, Martha Matthos Coelho and Jo Elson, were successfully elected and many more received assistance in their campaigns. Activate are also funding a number of women as part of their ‘Activists Fund’ — meet the recipients and check out the great work they are doing with the vital funding injection.

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Comprehensive digest of Northern Ireland elections released

The House of Commons Library has released a detailed research briefing exploring the political context behind the Northern Ireland election. The Centre on Constitutional Change has released a new podcast exploring the significance and outcome of the election.

SNP and Green Party forge working agreement for running Glasgow City Council

May’s local elections saw the Scottish Green Party become the third largest on Glasgow City Council, gaining three seats and overtaking the Conservatives. Negotiations on a working agreement with the SNP will now see the formation of an SNP minority administration, with the Green Party taking on a number of key roles within the Council. Cllr Martha Wardrop, Glasgow’s Green Co-Convenor noted ‘With our largest ever group of Green councillors, we will hold a minority SNP administration to account while working collaboratively across party lines to deliver a fairer, greener and more inclusive Glasgow and to bring about the changes that people voted for’.

Local Government Association annual conference, 28–30 June

The LGA are holding their annual conference in Harrogate this year on the 28–30th June. The Association of Electoral Administrators, Association of Democratic Services Officers, Local Government Information Unit, Center for Governance and Scrutiny, DemSoc and Lawyers in Local Government will be delivering a new Democracy Hub as part of the conference. More details soon.

We’re Right Here publish plans for a New Community Power Act

The new act will ‘fundamentally change where power lies in this country’, by establishing new community rights, creating a power-sharing arrangement between councils and communities, and establishing a Community Power Commissioner to ensure government action is taken. We’re Right Here have dubbed this ‘the missing piece of the devolution puzzle’, as it will build a ‘clear and trusted track’ through which power can be devolved.

Democracy & Media

IMPRESS call on government to retain publisher protections

The Government recently announced plans to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 through the media bill. CEO of IMPRESS, Ed Procter, has urged the government to re-think their plans, suggesting the proposed changes will fail to protect both news publishers from ‘exorbitant lawsuits brought about by those with vast wealth and power’, and the public from intrusion from the press.

Index file Council of Europe alert as journalists excluded from Home Secretary’s visit to Rwanda

Journalists from The Guardian, Financial Times, The Mirror, and others were excluded from a press trip made by the Home Secretary to Rwanda in mid-April. A number of newspapers have criticised the move suggesting this was a deliberate attempt to limit journalistic scrutiny over a set of controversial policies. Index On Censorship have filed a Council of Europe alert to formally express their concern.

Media Reform Coalition publish briefing on White Paper on the future of the broadcasting sector

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport’s White Paper on the future of the broadcasting sector represents a ‘concerted ideological attack on public service media in the UK’, according to the Media Reform Coalition. In a new briefing, they outline the proposed upcoming changes and their implications for the sector.

Shortlist for Freedom of Expression Awards announced

Index on Censorship have announced their nominees for the Freedom of Expression Awards celebrating artists, journalists and campaigners who risk their personal safety and wellbeing in order to champion free expression. Awards will be categorised according to arts, journalism and campaigning and the ceremony will take place in London on the 27th of October.

Funding Democracy

Esmée Fairburn Foundation funding stream closed until Autumn

Esmée Fairburn Foundation have postponed the re-opening of their ‘A Fairer Future’ funding scheme until the autumn. The scheme will work towards the twin goals of challenging structural inequality and creating a new inclusive generation of leaders and artists. Stay up to date on all funding developments and opportunities via their Twitter page.

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust makes grants of £6m in latest funding

The latest round of grant-making at JRCT has seen £6m allocated to a range of social, political and democratic projects. Funding applications will now temporarily close until November whilst the trust undergoes organisational changes. Follow them on Twitter for updates on this process. JRCT are also hiring a Grassroots Movements Programme Manager (Job Share 3 days per week) to help co-design a new funding stream to support social movements.

And Finally…

UN warns of ‘total societal collapse’ due to breaching of planetary boundaries

A landmark report by the United Nations concludes that ‘global collapse’ is becoming more likely. Despite these alarming statements, a senior advisor to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, on condition of anonymity, told the Byline Times that the recent GAR2022 report was watered-down before public release and the published version represents an ‘eviscerated skeleton of what was included in earlier drafts’.

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, Pilar 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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