UK Democracy Bulletin

Wednesday 25th August 2021

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

  • Elections Bill coalition key updates & immediate opportunities for collaboration
  • Police Bill coalition gains new convenor, co-sign the open letter against the bill
  • Human Rights Act 230 democracy and human rights groups sign shared position paper
  • Major funding opportunity to develop a participatory process on community safety
  • Bureau Local launches new People’s Newsroom community journalism initiative

Elections Bill

Reminders:

MPs Research Matrix
The growing collaboration through the Elections Bill coalition needs 5–6 orgs who can take 15 MPs each from this list and research them to divvy up the workload. Email matt@fairvote.uk if you can help.

Elections Bill coalition to start to maintain a shared calendar from September
Starting in September, organisations taking part in the coalition will be able to view a shared calendar to provide greater awareness of what organisations are doing across the space in response to the Bill.

Fair Vote setting up a new centralised folder to host Elections Bill policy/research work
Nico Docherty at Fair Vote UK is pulling together briefing notes, policy pieces and research on areas affected by the bill. If you know anything useful that should be added, send it to nico@fairvote.uk.

Recent roundtables held by Cat Smith MP suggest the Government may be open to expanding acceptable ID
Recent meetings with civil society organisations revealed that the Government intends to include blue badges as an acceptable form of ID, which promisingly suggests the Government may be open to expanding to include other forms of ID, reports Fair Vote UK.

Voter ID distribution to be managed at the local council level, not via a central government portal
Meetings of the Elections Bill coalition with the Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission have confirmed that the Government is committed to distribution and management of the new voter ID at the local council level. Peter Stanyon, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, has repeatedly warned the Government of additional cost burdens being pushed onto already cash-strapped councils, that national funding should be made available to roll out and maintain the scheme.

Elections Bill policy deep dive
Electoral Reform Society, Open Britain, Fair Vote, Unlock Democracy, Hands Off Our Vote and others as part of the coalition are focusing on the detail of the bill at the moment, as well as compiling policy positions from across different organisations into one place. Jess Garland, Director of Research and Policy at ERS, suggests that if anyone has amendments or has policy concerns that they get in touch.

The3million draft a new motion for councils on Residence-Based Voting Rights
Maria Milenova and Lara Parizotto of the3million, in partnership with Polish Migrants Organise for Change, have prepared a model council motion on Residence-Based Voting Rights and voter ID and have begun disseminating it to local councillors in their network. Lara is also keen to find out more about how the Scottish and Welsh campaigns for RBVR developed and successfully expanded the franchise.

SNP councillors in Renfrewshire receive Government reply to their letter to Chloe Smith MP opposing voter ID
SNP councillors wrote to the government back in June to demand the Prime Minister scrap plans for voter ID on the basis of alienating deprived communities. Chloe Smith MP responded saying voter fraud was “a crime we cannot allow room for” and that the government would be continuing with its plans.

Mayor of London writes to Minister of the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP, over Election Bill concerns
Elisabeth Pop highlights this letter the Mayor’s Office has sent to Chloe Smith MP, raising concerns over the bills impact on the ability of Londoners to fully engage in the democratic process. The stats and background research included in the letter may be useful to other organisations, they mention.

Democracy Sector

Updates on the Police Bill coalition, looking for open letter co-signatories
Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) has provided funding to contract a new Police Bill coalition convener, Kathleen Christie. Thanks to funding from JRRT, the Quakers have contracted Jessica Metheringham to work on influencing the bill as it passes through the Lords, they’re also looking to hire a comms consultant. Kathleen is asking democracy organisations to co-sign a new open letter against the bill. The deadline for the open letter is August 31st, you can co-sign the letter here. The PCSC Bill will start its passage through the Lords on 14th September. If you’re interested in joining the coalition, contact Kathleen — or subscribe to Liberty’s PCSC Bill mailing list here for the regular updates.

Democracy and human rights groups come together to sign shared position paper
More than 230 organisations including Index on Censorship, Best for Britain, Fair Vote, Travellers Movement and Unlock Democracy have signed a shared position paper in defence of the Human Rights Act and judicial review. If you would like to add your organisation, please contact Rachel at Humanists UK with your logo and a two sentence description of your organisation.

I Have A Voice prep for their event launch and experiment with a new application process
Rebecca Deegan, Founder at I Have A Voice, is preparing for the launch of their first policy paper. The new paper goes into depth on the need to diversify the political sphere and widen participation in democratic processes — don’t miss their launch on 1 September! They’re also hiring for a new Education Partnership Manager, and in an experimental turn have asked potential applicants for a 60-second video clip of what they’d do if they were stuck in a lift with Boris Johnson, much more exciting than just reading CVs!

Represent.me is looking for a new owner
The civic-centric political engagement platform, Represent, is looking for a new lease of life. Whilst it grew quickly in 2015–2016 with over 20,000 registered users, it has been dormant for the last 3 years due to the change in political sensibilities and founder burnout. Represent.me would benefit an organisation seeking national or international engagement: campaigns, political parties, unions, civic foundations, etc. The founder is also interested in making it fully open-source. For more information see http://go.eddowding.com/represent. You can contact the founder, Ed Dowding, at ed@represent.me.

Pol.is are working to build more effective and accessible consultations
Rutter Wetters, researcher at the digital democracy platform Pol.is, is working on their Computational Democracy Project, to develop a more effective, fair and accessible method of public consultation designed to promote consensus and minimise trolling. For those unfamiliar with the platform, Pol.is has a long track record of successful deployments, and is the tool of choice for the Digital Minister of Taiwan, Audrey Tang.

Artcry — the new fund to support artists to make politically response work
Artcry give small grants up to £2.5k to support artists who want to make an immediate artistic impact in response to social and political events. They’re keen to get involved in the campaigning of democracy organisations in this space. You can find out more about Artcry on their website, or by contacting their Director, Kathryn Bilyard.

Upskilling activists with the School of Social Justice
Alvin Carpio has started working with a small team to experiment with delivering content to upskill activists, through a new YouTube channel and podcast. They’re currently recruiting and on the lookout for a videographer, video editor, graphic designer and animator.

What makes a campaigning organisation ‘people-driven’?
In this latest piece for Sheila McKechnie as part of a collaboration with the Power Sharing Project, Lianna Etkind unpacks their experiences from community organising. Bookings for SMK’s next Campaign Carousel in January are now open.

Democratic Reform

Women’s Equality Party table amendment to recall MPs guilty of sexual harassment
After successfully campaigning to stop Mark Field being selected as a candidate after he infamously grabbed a female climate protestor in 2019 and standing candidates against MPs under investigation for misconduct, WEP have worked to successfully table an amendment in Parliament to recall sex pest MPs.

Make Votes Matter are hiring a new Media Manager and working to build their Alliance
The MVM Alliance for Proportional Representation started back in 2016 and is a cross-party grouping of 71 organisations and parties, ranging from Conservative Action on Electoral Reform to Plaid Cymru. Holly Morgan-Davies has just joined MVM and is now working to build up the Alliance and welcome new members. Make Votes Matter are also hiring a new Media Manager, you can find out more and apply here.

New House of Commons Library briefings on Parliamentary Recall and Unitary Local Government
Richard Kelly has written up a detailed briefing on the process and history of recalling Parliament, whilst Mark Sandford provides a comprehensive overview of unitary local government in England.

Integrity & Transparency

National Union of Journalists members prevented from reporting on latest XR demonstrations
With Extinction Rebellion back on the streets of London this week ahead of COP26 in November, the National Union of Journalists report their members being unable to access protest areas this week after being turned away by the Metropolitan Police.

Elections

SNP and Scottish Greens confirm power-sharing deal in historic first for UK Greens
Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie will become ministers under a confidence and supply agreement between the party and the SNP. The deal marks the first time the Green Party has entered government in the UK. The Scottish Tory party took aim at the Greens calling them “extremists” (paywall). View the shared policy programme here and the Cooperation Agreement here.

Green Party leadership election experiencing a last minute flurry of candidates
New candidates for the top job include Ashley Gunstock — an actor best known for a stint in the police drama The Bill, Shahrar Ali — who is centering the party’s internal conflict over trans rights as the core of his campaign. Other candidates include co-leader candidates Amelia Womack and Extinction Rebellion activist Tamsin Omond, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay and Tina Rothery and Martin Hemingway.

New briefing on UK elections from the House of Commons Library
The paper by Richard Cracknell and Sam Pilling presents an overview of elections in the UK since 1918, including elections to the European Parliament, local government and devolved legislatures.

Democracy & Media

Bureau Local launches new People’s Newsroom to support community journalism
The new initiative will begin on an experimental basis in Swansea, providing hands-on startup support to design innovative journalism initiatives and invest in community newsroom leaders traditionally marginalised by the media. The Swansea newsroom project brings together the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST), Lankelly Chase and Clwstwr to research, design and build the new community journalism project, which will then inform the UK wide rollout of the People’s Newsroom project next year. Find out more about the People’s Newsroom at the Bureau Local’s project launch event on 9th September.

Manchester local news startup The Mill reaches 925 members and £65,000 annual income
The Mill’s four-strong team produce a well-researched advertising-free article every weekday to its paying members, whether investigating online allegations of local government corruption or analysing the future of the iconic Piccadilly Gardens. The Mill is in direct competition with the Manchester Evening News, owned by Reach, Britain’s largest newspaper group.

DCMS’ Online Media Literacy Strategy, PINF’s Joe Mitchell takes a look
DCMS’ Online Media Report outlines the context and the challenges facing those working on media literacy reform, which includes better coordination of the 170 organisations identified in the strategy. The paper goes on to describe (some very familiar) problems faced by those orgs, of funding, evaluation etc. Joe Mitchell of Public Interest News Foundation asks whether there are any lessons here for any attempts at political/civic literacy strategy?

GB News stalls, Andrew Neil likely to quit role
GB News has seen its viewership drop to zero on some shows after presenter takes the kneee, as Chairman and former BBC presenter Andrew Neil reconsiders his role.

Funding Democracy

Major new funding opportunity for participatory processes launched by Open Society Foundations
Open Society Foundations (OSF) has launched a call for proposals to fund a piece of participatory design work, with quite a short deadline (7 October). They’re looking for a UK-based non-profit organisation to lead a group of partners/stakeholders to develop a participatory process to design a new approach to community safety and policing resource allocation. The purpose is to design a participatory and multi-stakeholder (including police) process, where the process itself educates the public and other actors about policing and community safety budgets and outcomes. The process will result in the design of a participatory approach to resource allocation (such as participatory budgeting or other community decision-making models), which can be trialled in a UK location(s). Some at OSF are apparently worried that the language of the call, and the size of the budget ($300k) may be off-putting for many orgs, and has asked for it to be shared widely. There will be a webinar on 6 Sept that will provide more information.

And Finally…

Journalism failed in Afghanistan too
Peter W Klein, Executive Director of the Global Reporting Centre, an independent non-profit newsroom, reflects on the troubled role of journalism during the long 20 years of the Afghanistan occupation.

How did democracy fare under lockdown?
Ariane Gottlieb writing for National Endowment for Democracy’s Power 3.0 project goes into some depth on how COVID-19 has affected and continues to play havoc with democratic processes, cultures and electoral calendars around the world.

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

We’ve been experimenting with the format of this bulletin 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 Lara Parizotto — Co-Manager at the Young Europeans Network, Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation, Myf Nixon at mySociety, Jon Morter of The Progressive Alliance, Kathleen Christie — Convenor at Police Bill coalition, Rebecca Deegan — Founder at I Have A Voice, Holly Morgan-Davies at Make Votes Matter, Alvin Carpio, Ruth Wetters — Researcher at Pol.is, Ed Dowding, Kathryn Bilyard — Director at Artcry, Jess Garland — Director of Research and Policy at Electoral Reform Society.

See you next time, add to your calendar

James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team

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