UK Democracy Bulletin, 4th May 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. Read by 300+ 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

  • Elections Bill passes
  • Police Bill passes
  • Nationality & Borders Bill passes
  • Democracy Network RSVP for Development Day #2 May 25th
  • BBC Local Democracy Reporters hiring

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Titus Alexander — Democracy Matters, Jessie Joe Jacobs — Coordinator at Democracy Network, Trin Gong — Events Assistant at Radix Big Tent, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation and Peter Keeling — Voting Information at Democracy Club.

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 71 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.

In recent weeks, we have welcomed Frances Crook and the team at the Commission on Political Power, Samayya Afzal and the British Youth Council, Ashley Hodges and Young Citizens, and Rose Lasko-Skinner and the team at Demos, as pledges.

Upcoming Legislation

Elections Bill passes the Lords, Parliament prorogued

Last Wednesday evening the House of Lords finally gave up its fight to inflict setbacks on the Government’s Elections Bill. With the Government failing to give way, the Lords let the legislation pass. The unamended Elections Bill could now potentially give ministers new and unchecked powers over the Electoral Commission, undermining free and fair elections in the UK. Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain remarked last Wednesday, “Tonight was the last chance to protect the independence of the elections watchdog and with it free and fair elections in the UK.” Attendance at last week’s critical votes have been a cause for concern, with just 67 of 167 Labour peers turning up to vote on amendments.

Civil society organisations mobilise in response to passing of Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill

On the 28th of April, the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill was passed in parliament. The bill has been the subject of major contention and will give the police unprecedented new powers to restrict protests deemed “too noisy”. The Police Bill Alliance, a coalition of over 350 UK organisations opposing the bill, have called it a “dark day for democracy”. Other rights-based groups such as Liberty and NetPol have pledged to release legal advice, workshops, training and guides on how to stay safe in light of the new laws. We will continue to cover emerging advice in upcoming bulletins.

Longstanding ‘ping-pong’ of Nationality and Borders Bill comes to an end

On Wednesday evening the Government successfully passed the Nationality and Borders Bill after the House of Lords dropped a series of proposed amendments. The new laws will legalise offshore processing of asylum seekers and will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK via an illegal route. More than 240 organisations have pledged to oppose the Government’s new laws stating that the bill “rips up internationally recognised rights for people fleeing war and persecution, and will criminalise thousands of refugees”.

Media Reform Coalition outline concern over the Online Safety Bill

Ahead of the spring reading, the Media Reform Coalition has published a briefing on the historical context and key debates surrounding the Online Safety Bill. They suggest the clear need for greater regulation of our online space should not be used as a foundation for “ill-thought out” regulation that could excessively bolster the power of the governing party and simultaneously isolate the UK tech industry as a global outlier.

Democracy Sector

Democracy Network Development Day #2 coming May 25th

On Monday 21st March 2022, the Democracy Network held its first ‘Development Day’ — a workshop designed to involve larger numbers of participants in forming the Network’s approach, in advance of a major public launch in autumn 2022. The second Development Day is scheduled for May 25th. View the report from the first workshop. Jessie Joe Jacobs, the Network’s Coordinator, asks that if you would like the Network to host a briefing on your work, or if you would like to get more involved in the work of the Network, that you please complete this short survey.

House of Commons Speaker rebukes sexist Angela Rayner article

Last Monday, the Mail on Sunday published a sexist story targeted at Angela Rayner. Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle summoned the Mail on Sunday editor for a meeting over the article last weekend. “The story can only deter women who might consider standing for election,” Mr Hoyle told MPs in the Commons last Monday.

ElectHer are running Peer Support Circles to connect women in politics

From the 10th of May to the 21st of June, ElectHer will be facilitating a series of free online support circles to connect women in politics and create a space for learning, reflection and personal growth. If you’re thinking about embarking on a journey in politics, join these weekly sessions to gain encouragement and expertise from women on the same path.

LGiU publish short report on public attitudes to local elections

Ahead of the local elections across the UK tomorrow, LGiU have teamed up with pollster Ipsos to explore what the UK public thinks about local elections, local councillors and local government. Explore all the findings from the research and check out their online facts and figures page for more information on how local government and local voting works.

Demos launch Post-Pandemic People Power project

Over the past few months, Ciaran Cummins and the team at Demos have been looking at the experiences of activists in the UK to provide insight into the future of British politics. Get in touch with Ciaran if you’re keen to talk about this!

Constitution Unit host webinar to discuss conclusions from citizens assembly on UK Democracy

Earlier this month The Constitution Unit launched a report based on insights from the UK’s first citizens assembly on democracy. Following-up on the report launch, The Constitution Unit held an online webinar last week to discuss the key conclusions. If you missed it, check out their YouTube channel to catch-up on the debate.

Communication Workers Union pass motion calling for a fairer voting system

The Communication Workers Union have passed a motion declaring the current First Past the Post system is “an undemocratic election process” that has “left the UK exposed to extreme Tory governments elected by a minority of voters”. They join Unite, Aslef, the BFAWU, TSSA, Musicians and PCS, who have all also passed similar motions since October 2021. A number of other unions including Unison have said they will host similar debates in the coming months.

New study on class and political engagement among young people in Scotland

Young people are often the most politically disengaged demographic, compounded by social class differences within that grouping. Based on data collected around the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, Christine Huebner and Jan Eichhorn have identified that when rates of participation increase amongst young people, young people of all social classes were equally likely to be politically engaged. Overall, social class differences in political engagement were less pronounced amongst 16–17 year olds in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.

Trust the People to launch eight-week course on community organising

Starting on the 9th of May, Trust the People will be running an eight-week course on community organising. The course will be split over five in-depth modules covering a range of topics from one-on-one relationship building to successfully running community assemblies. It is free to sign up and upon completion, you’ll have the chance to join a ‘Hive’ support group with others who took part.

50:50 host monthly ‘Connect and Reflect’ sessions for women from ethnically diverse backgrounds

50:50 Parliament host a regular monthly session to create a safe space for women from a range of ethnic backgrounds to help progress on their political path. This is a recurring event that takes place on the last Monday of the month and you can find updates on future sessions by following 50:50 on Twitter.

Radix Big Tent coming June 11th in Bristol

The annual festival is back — get your ticketsview the programme.

New Local are on the lookout for a new Principal Practice Consultant/Lead

New Local have been working with councils and other civic bodies to make sure ‘community power’ is at the forefront of local planning and engagement. The new Principal Practice Consultant/Lead with help develop this exciting work which has picked up speed. If this sounds like the role for you then check out the job description and apply before 11th May.

Get PR Done! are looking for a new Treasurer

GPRD are on the hunt for a new treasurer to help with the financial and administrative running of the organisation. Get in touch via getprdone@gmail.com if you are interested.

Carnegie UK are looking for a new Chair of Trustees

Sir John Elvidge is reaching the end of their term at Carnegie UK meaning they are on the lookout for a new Chair of Trustees. The new chair will lead the board and implement a new company strategy to improve collective wellbeing in the UK and Ireland. Deadline for applications is May 11th.

Onward are hiring a Chief Operating Officer

The new hire will report directly to the Director and Trustees and will oversee Onward’s finances, relationships and operations. If you have a strong understanding of the British political landscape and would be happy to representing Onward at all levels, including at C-suite and Cabinet level, then check out the job description and apply before 8th of May.

Copenhagen Democracy Summit arrives 9–10 June

The Alliance of Democracies Foundation, founded in 2017 by former NATO Secretary General and former Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, works to strengthen ties between democracies and build a worldwide intellectual movement for democracy. The June summit is an annual event, bringing together elected leaders and business executives. For more information see their website.

Democratic Reform

Andy Burnham: We need a complete rewiring of Britain’s political system

Greater Manchester Mayor and former Labour front bencher Andy Burnham has called for the introduction of proportional representation (PR) for general elections and a wholesale reform of the House of Lords, according to Sam Bright at the Byline Times. Burnham is also a passionate advocate for regional devolution and a system for electing parliamentary representatives on a regional basis, arguing that the current system “prevents people from acting across a broad region.” Whilst a divergence from Labour Party policy, YouGov polling found an overwhelming 83% of Labour members surveyed supported the introduction of PR for general elections.

Dr Hannah White to discuss their new book, ‘What’s wrong with the House of Commons?’

In light of recent smears to the reputation of politicians, Dr White’s new book explores how the House of Commons can reform to reinstall trust and accountability with the public. Register for the launch of their new book on May 3rdHeld in Contempt: What’s wrong with the House of Commons?, which will be discussed alongside a panel of experts to find out how parliament could change for the better. Dr Hannah White is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Government.

Unlock Democracy write their own version of the Queen’s Speech

With the Queen’s Speech looming, Unlock Democracy have taken the opportunity to craft their own version, putting forward a series of key democratic reforms. The speech has been sent to all 650 MPs and a public petition has been launched demanding that the Queen’s speech on May 10th includes plans to modernise our democracy.

New report in an upcoming series from IPPR suggests democracy needs major reform

IPPR have teamed up with Compass, ERS and Unlock Democracy to publish a major new report on the decline of democratic engagement in the UK. One of the key findings is that age and class have a significant impact on perceptions about whether democracy serves individuals well. The report is part of a new programme at IPPR focusing on democracy and justice, so keep an eye out for future updates about its development.

Integrity & Transparency

MP convicted of sexually molesting child finally steps down

MP Imran Ahmad Khan, who has been expelled from the Conservative Party following his conviction, had ignored calls for him to resign his Westminster seat until last Friday. Local Conservatives have been growing increasingly alarmed at his refusal to step down.

Unlock Democracy want your views on government accountability

The Elections Bill passed on Wednesday evening following what Best for Britain described as a deliberate Government strategy to bypass scrutiny by scheduling the vote late into the evening and running hard up against the parliamentary deadline. Unlock Democracy have raised similar concerns over current checks and balances on government power and are canvassing public opinion on how to ensure the Government is more effectively held accountable by the House of Lords.

Home Office abandons policy of refugee pushbacks

In the face of multiple legal challenges from PCS Union, Care for Calais and Free from Torture, the Home Office has rowed back on it’s controversial and dangerous policy, reports Channel Rescue.

Full Fact launch campaign calling for greater transparency in parliament

In light of the recent fines for the Prime Minister and Chancellor, Full Fact have launched a campaign demanding new rules to allow MPs to correct false claims or statements, and formal sanctions for those who don’t. The petition, signed by over 18,000 members of the public, has been sent to all MPs in a bid to improve honesty and transparency in parliament.

Elections

Pwy alla i bleidleisio ar gyfer?

Democracy Club’s voter information services are now running at full steam across all election areas ahead of the 5 May vote, including Northern Ireland. They’ve also boosted their platform, adding support for the Welsh language. Add their election widget to your website now.

High praise for quality and speed of French election reporting

Martin Stabe, Data Editor at the Financial Times, remarks at the speed and granularity of the French elections. With more than 35,000 communes reporting results in just five hours, distributed in machine-readable formats by one official source. Democracy Club has been campaigning for years for a similar approach to UK elections, find out more about how we can work towards that goal here.

Electoral Commission release voter information resources for upcoming local elections

In a push to increase awareness and encourage participation in the upcoming local elections, the Electoral Commission has released a guide for voters with information on polling station opening times, when elections are taking place, what to do if you need help voting, and much more. Share it around to encourage the public to get involved this month!

Devolved Democracy & Local Government

Legal uncertainty over proposed Indyref2

The Scottish Government has been ordered by the country’s information commissioner to publish details of legal advice it has received over a potential second independence referendum currently scheduled by the Scottish Government for 2023. The Scottish Government has so far refused to make the advice public, arguing it would breach legal professional privilege. The UK Government has shown no sign that it is willing to give the formal consent that ensured the legality of the 2014 poll. A court battle between the UK and Scottish Government could result should Sturgeon press ahead with the plans without formal consent.

Revisiting Local Government Chronicle’s emerging devolution map

Last September, the Local Government Chronicle mapped the progress of potential devolution deals and processes across the UK, charting potential flashpoints and plans.

mySociety commission report on linking up citizens and local government for climate action

The climate programme at mySociety has been exploring how local authorities can implement strategies to reduce carbon emissions. Their new report highlights public attitudes towards net zero and local government, and the role local authorities have in reaching climate targets. Check out the seven key messages from the report.

Democracy & Media

Join the ranks of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporters

The BBC is currently advertising vacancies nationwide, including Sheffield, Fife, Northamptonshire, Scarborough, Southampton, Shropshire, Stoke, London, Cardiff and Bath. There are currently 165 BBC Local Democracy Reporters across the UK, funded by the BBC and employed by local news organisations. Find out more and how to apply on the BBC website.

Public Interest News Foundation finalising their 2022 Index of Independent News Publishing

The annual in-depth review covers more than 70 independent newsrooms across the UK and is due to be published soon. Joe Mitchell, Programme Manager at the Public Interest News Foundation, is looking out for interesting examples of good, bad and non existent coverage of elections in local media, pop them a message if you have any suggestions.

Elon Musk buys Twitter with aim to promote free speech and democracy

Musk bought the social media platform for $44bn on the 25th of April with plans to liberalise restrictions on free speech. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate have responded by opening a tip-line for any current or former Twitter employees to share concerns on what the takeover will mean for countering hate speech and misinformation.

Physical attacks on journalists increase according to new report

A new report, Defending Press Freedom in Times of Tension and Conflict, published by the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, has found that attacks on journalists increased by 51% over the last year. The report also found that many of the attacks have taken place at public protests raising significant fears over the status of free expression in Europe. The report found journalists in the UK at risk of detention and imprisonment, being attacked by police during protests and facing harassment and intimidation.

And Finally…

European Alternatives host No More War Citizens’ Assembly on war in Ukraine

On the 27th of April, European Alternatives hosted an online, transnational citizens assembly uniting European citizens in opposition to the war in Ukraine. The initiative, due to recur on a rolling basis, will open up channels for individuals to discuss their own experiences and solidarity actions, as well as share thoughts on possible solutions to the war. Follow EuroAlt on Twitter to stay up to date with what’s coming up, or email them directly to sign up to future assemblies — euroalter@protonmail.com.

Citizens Assemblies on biodiversity loss and local government begin in Dublin

A joint meeting took place in Dublin in April as part of a new initiative to consult the local population on local government structure and biodiversity loss. The assemblies will continue to meet throughout the year placing people “at the heart of the consideration of proposals which could have a significant impact on the way we live our lives”, according to the chair of the biodiversity assembly, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin.

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 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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