UK Democracy Bulletin, 5th October
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Scottish Government joins Welsh Government in refusing legislative consent for Elections Bill
- Labour Party Conference vote to back PR unsuccessful
- Democracy Drinks first new London-based democracy get together goes down well
- Green Party Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay elected co-leaders
- Hacked Off launches major new campaign against IPSO
Reminder: Elections Bill ‘Office Hours’ meets at Thursday 12pm lunchtime every week
You can join the call via this Zoom link.
Scottish Government joins Welsh Government in their refusal to provide consent for Elections Bill
The Scottish Government recommends that Holyrood does not give consent to the legislation, noting that there is “no evidence of significant electoral fraud to justify voter ID measures in Scotland”. Last month also saw the Welsh Government refuse to support the legislation in the Welsh Senedd. Scottish law makers are acutely aware that the Elections Bill will lead to a two-tier franchise in Scotland, with UK elections requiring ID, and Scottish elections remaining open and free, creating voter confusion and likely depressed turnout. According to Willie Sullivan, Senior Director at Electoral Reform Society Scotland, refusal of Legislative Consent is very rare and thus highly signifi, though does not prevent the passing of legislation in UK Parliament.
Confusion over new Minister for the Elections Bill
Chris Pincher who had apparently replaced Chloe Smith in the recent reshuffle, was thought to be holding the brief for the Elections Bill, but we’ve learned that formally, there is currently no replacement. In other news, Pincher has never rebelled against his party.
Amendments proposed by the Election Bill coalition have all been tabled
Cat Smith’s office reports that all amendments proposed by the Democracy Defence Coalition have been tabled. Though several amendments are still due in, they are likely to be submitted no later than October 15th according to Matt Gallagher and the team at Fair Vote.
Elections Bill bad news for Disabled voters
According to the Disability Rights UK’s Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, the bill removes provisions in the Representation of the People Act 1983 relating to “prescribed equipment” such as tactile voting devices, which currently should be held and offered by all polling stations. Instead, the Bill allows for differential practices and equipment at each polling station. Fazilet outlined the domestic and international laws requiring equality of participation in the electoral process by Disabled people.
Voice4Change England hosting voter ID workshop and and drinks in London
On Monday 18th at the Royal Society of the Arts, Voice4Change England will be hosting a panel discussion and networking party focused on voter ID, particularly with reference to the electoral impacts on BAME communities across the UK.
Dr Alan Renwick: Electoral Commission governance changes risk electoral integrity and devolution
In a new blog for the Constitution Unit, their Deputy Director, Dr Alan Renwick, analyses the proposed changes and subsequent political, electoral and constitutional impacts of the changes. Dr Renwick suggests that elements of the bill relating to the Electoral Commission are concerning and should be significantly changed as the bill works its way through parliament.
Bates and Wells have released a briefing for third party campaigners
The briefing goes into detail on the impacts and implications for charities and third parties, including a breakdown of the new spending rules and new digital imprint requirements. We’ve uploaded the briefing to a dropbox link here.
New Democracy Drinks!
Last Thursday a handful of us got together in a pub in South London for Democracy Drinks, which will hopefully become a new regular event for those of us in the London area. Jessie Joe Jacobs, the new Democracy Network Coordinator, joined us, with their colleague Callum Green, the new Director of Advocacy and Communications at Involve, alongside Ruth Price (Digital Action) who had organised the event, and folks from Best for Britain, the Royal Society, Newspeak House, the3million and more.
Jessie Joe Jacobs settles into their new role as Involve’s new Democracy Network Coordinator
Recently appointed as the new Network Coordinator, Jessie is spending most of their time reaching out to as many of us across the democracy space as possible over the next month. You can find out more about their mission here.
Upcoming joint event on the democratic and electoral impact of the Online Safety Bill
Teaming up with Fair Vote UK, the Centre for Democracy are co-hosting an upcoming event on the Online Safety Bill (OSB) and its impact on our democratic systems. The panel discussion and Q & A will be held on Zoom on October 13th, register now.
Democracy Club on the lookout for new Non-Executive Directors
Democracy Club are on the hunt for Non-Executive Directors (NED) that are a step removed from the usual suspects, beyond the democracy space. The team are thinking about how businesses and wider society can help play a role to promote voter turnout and distribute key election information, they’re hoping the NEDs might be able to help them achieve this. In other news, Democracy Club’s Peter Keeling is thinking about Northern Ireland ahead of the region’s upcoming Assembly elections in May 2022.
Powering Up project begins first stage of polling
Recently funded by JRRT, Unlock Democracy and Compass have partnered on a new project — Powering Up — to push for democratic reform. They are currently taking their first steps with polling to help identify target voter demographics, working with IPPR and ERS.
The Bakers’ Union has disaffiliated from the Labour Party
The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) announced during the Labour Party Conference that it has decided to disaffiliate from the Labour Party, accusing Labour leader Keir Starmer of waging a “factional war”. The Bakers’ Union helped found and fund the Labour Party in 1902.
Reboot GB developing new Democracy Hubs
Liz Crosbie and the team at Reboot GB are developing a new practice of Open Source Democracy, based around Democracy Hubs, new local bases for activists to team together, disconnected from national campaigns and with the intention of outfoxing potential campaigning restrictions in the Elections Bill.
Demos looking at the future of activism
The last few years have seen radical changes to activism, from the rise of precarious worker unions, the proliferation of direct action tactics from XR to Stop the Coup to GND Rising, the mass takeup of mutual aid groups across the country as a result of COVID-19 and the changing and intensifying political and legislative climate. Ciaran Cummins, Researcher at Demos, is about to start a new project at Demos looking into the role of activism during the pandemic and its future and is keen to talk to anyone interested.
Shout Out UK preparing for Political Literacy Week 2021
Shout Out UK’s Political Literacy Week will be held from November 4th.
Labour Party Conference soundly rejects motion committing Labour to PR
The vote at conference was declared too close to call and a card vote was declared. Whilst 79.5% of CLP delegates backed the motion, 95% of affiliates — trade unions — voted against the motion. Campaigners seem to have expected this result, as trade unions have not held their annual conferences as usual due to COVID-19, and as a result similar supporting motions have not had time to progress through the unions. Campaigners at Make Votes Matter are confident they will return with the unions on board in the future. The rejected motion on PR was the most widely supported single topic ahead of conference in the modern history of the Labour Party.
Labour for a New Democracy: What to do after Labour Conference
L4ND are holding an event this Thursday on what to do now after the Labour Party Conference. L4ND and their allies were instrumental in getting the PR vote onto the conference floor last week.
Forward Democracy lights up Labour Conference with #LabourLovesPR projection
Teaming up with the Led By Donkeys projection team, Forward Democracy raised the stakes for last Monday’s Labour Conference vote on proportional representation with a huge 100ft message to Keir Starmer and attending delegates.
New poll finds 52% in favour of PR
The survey found 52% back PR, 17% oppose, with 31% don’t knows, finding broad enthusiasm for electoral reform. The poll was conducted by Number Cruncher Politics and commissioned by Labour for a New Democracy.
Stir to Action release new report on ‘Building democratic culture, skills and partnership in policy-led regions’
Sharing the direct experiences of the democratic business community, the report poses questions around how we can overcome the lack of strategic leadership surrounding democratic business, in short — how policy commitments by local government can be translated into practical action and new opportunities.
Green Party of England and Wales unveils new leadership pair
Succeeding Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay are taking over as joint-leaders at a key time for the party, with rising membership figures following the continuing exodus from the Labour Party, climate and environmental concern hot in the national consciousness, healthy local election results and national polling higher than the Lib Dems and growing fortunes for sister green parties across the EU in France and Germany. Denyer is the Green Party’s MP for Bristol West. Ramsay formerly served as Deputy Leader and worked with Caroline Lucas MP on their successful bid for re-election in 2010, and previously held the prestigious position of CEO for the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Over half of Conservative Party members want to elect their Chairman directly
In a new survey of the Conservative membership run by ConservativeHome, 56% believe that the post of Party Chairman should be elected by the membership, 70% want the power to directly elect “at least some” of the Party Board, and 75% believe that the leadership should be more accountable to members.
Germany enjoys huge 76.6% electoral turnout in their recent federal elections
Back in 2019, the UK recorded a 67.3% turnout rate, having last broken the 70% mark back in 1997 with 71.3%. The CDU met with disappointing results in their first federal election without Angela Merkel since 2005. SPD leader Olaf Scholz has indicated they want to broker a coalition agreement by Christmas and are currently exploring their options.
Democracy & Media
Hacked Off launches new campaign asking the question why IPSO hasn’t launched any investigations yet
The regulator IPSO was set up in 2014 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, reportedly with the power to commence standards investigations and to issue serious “million pound” fines. Hacked Off highlight that seven years later we haven’t seen any investigations or fines issued, despite the serious failure of a range of news publications, they argue.
Centenary Action Group release new briefing on Online Safety Bill
The briefing by the coalition is focused on online harms against women and makes recommendations to include specific measures to address online harms against women and girls.
The Guardian no longer disclosing their print circulation figures
Joining the ranks of the Telegraph and News UK, the Guardian will no longer be transparent with regards to its print circulation metrics. The paper claims that this decision is due to a focus on diversity in their metrics, though Press Gazette suggests this may be due to dwindling figures.
Facebook is starting to share how its algorithms demote items in news feeds
The social giant has released new “content distribution guidelines” providing some information on how the platform’s algorithm’s work.
Goodbye Social Democracy, James Plunkett on the future of government
In this Medium long read the author of End State, James Plunkett, takes a deep dive into the problem of the social settlement in the digital age.
Latest YouGov research shows Labour & Conservatives neck and neck in the Red Wall
According to the results of YouGov’s latest MRP polling, the Conservative Party’s influence in Red Wall seats has reduced to levels last seen during the 2017 General Election.
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 5 October: Project Coordinator at Tactical Tech
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Open Deadline: Trustee at Speakers’ Corner Trust (Voluntary)
- Apply by 31 October: Non-executive Director at Democracy Club (Voluntary)
- Apply by 17 October: Advisory Board Member at Digital Action (Voluntary)
- Apply by 11 October: Senior Communications Officer at Local Trust (£34–39k)
- Apply by 14 October: Volunteer Coordinator at CitizensUK (£24–25.5k)
- Apply by 10 October: Lakeman Fellow at Electoral Reform Society (£12.5k)
- Apply by 19 October: Operations Manager at Demos (£30–35k)
- Apply by 19 October: Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Fawcett Society (£32.5k)
- Apply by 20 October: Policy and Parliamentary Relations Manager at Full Fact (£40–44k)
- Apply by 29 October: Policy Manager at Full Fact (£42–48k)
Unsalaried job listings
- Open Deadline: Contract Specialist (Part-time) at Purpose
- Open Deadline: Campaigns Adviser at Digital Action
- Apply by 8 October: Investigations Campaign Manager at Taxpayers’ Alliance
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 Jessie Joe Jacobs — Democracy Network Coordinator at Involve, Michela Palese — Research and Policy Officer at Electoral Reform Society, Ciaran Cummins — Researcher at Demos, Shaun Roberts — Head of Campaigns and Digital at Unlock Democracy, Perry Walker — Talkshop and Liz Crosbie — Founder at Reboot GB.
See you next time, add to your calendar
James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team