UK Democracy Bulletin

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Wednesday 22nd September 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 passes second reading
  • Government proceeds with legislation to replace SV with FPTP
  • Reshuffle Chris Pincher MP replaces Chloe Smith MP; Gove retains elections brief
  • Police Bill Coalition prepares week of action for Oct 11–17
  • Labour Party to vote on return to electoral college leadership election system
  • Welsh Government proposes multi-day polling and shops and schools as polling sites

Elections Bill

Elections Bill passes second reading
The Elections Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons by 327 votes to 228.

New shared calendar now available — add your orgs events & operations
The Election Bill Coalition now hosts a shared operational calendar. Add upcoming events, social media pushes and anything else that is useful for collaboration.

Elections Bill Democracy Defence Coalition fully operational
With open Office Hours every Thursday at 12pm, this is the weekly forum to share intel, raise questions, make connections and participate in multi-organisation sessions to draft amendments, coordinate activity and engage with over 60 orgs. To get on the contact list, email matt@fairvote.uk

Are you a third party campaigner? Answer this survey by Bond, NCVO, SMK and others
The third party campaigner survey aims to generate an idea of the potential impact of the Elections Bill on affected campaigning groups. Bates Wells have published a briefing covering the impact of the bill on charities and issue-based campaigners.

Labour tabling amendments to iron out inconsistencies in accepted forms of voter ID
Currently the legislation will allow for Oyster 60+ cards and pensioner bus passes, but excludes 18+ Oyster cards and student ID. Kate Robson, Political Adviser to Cat Smith MP, and their team are expected to table amendments this week in an attempt to add these forms, as well as Rail Cards, Young Scot Cards and other forms of non-photo ID cards.

UK Government announces they are proceeding with legislation to replace all SV elections with FPTP
The government has announced its intention to bring forward an amendment at committee stage which would extend FPTP to all elections currently held under Supplementary Vote, as originally floated by the Home Secretary in March.

Traveller Movement highlights impact of voter ID on nomadic communities
An array of reports and briefings in recent months have detailed concerns about the impact of voter ID legislation on poor and minoritised voters. Traveller Movement’s latest research shows that the proposals will have a particularly pronounced impact for Nomadic Travellers who live on sites where access to basic infrastructure is not guaranteed.

Who’s who on the Election Bill committee?
If you haven’t seen it already, the parliamentary committee for the Election Bill has been listed here.

Welsh Government refuses legislative assent for Elections Bill
The Welsh Government is calling for the Senedd to vote against the bill and have said two sets of election rules on voter ID, one for UK elections and one for Welsh Senedd and council elections, will cause confusion and lower already poor turnout. Welsh Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, is pushing for amendments to the bill.

Online Safety Bill

Online Safety Bill: What to expect in Parliament in the coming months
Carnegie Trust have published a new blog detailing what we can expect to see in Parliament over the next few months as the OSB picks up momentum.

First session of new Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill
Last week’s session saw Imran Ahmed — Center for Countering Digital Hate, Danny Stone — Antisemitism Trust, and others including Rio Ferdinand giving evidence. Meanwhile, the call for evidence in the DCMS Select Committee inquiry into Online Safety and Online Harms has now closed.

Stop the Hate — new website to log harms ahead of parliamentary proceedings
To help collect public testimony for the Pre-legislative Scrutiny Committee, Digital Action have teamed up with Compassion in Politics to create a new site where people can log their experience of social media, providing examples of the harm they currently face. Please do share with your communities and networks, if you would like to add your organisation please reach out to Ruth Price at Digital Action.

Big Brother Watch launches new report: The State of Free Speech Online
The report concludes that the Online Safety Bill threatens “state-sanctioned censorship of lawful expression online in a magnitude never previously possible in a liberal democracy”.

Snapshot of public and civil society debate on the Online Safety Bill
Stephen Fry and a large number of LGBTQ+ campaigners have called for changes to the bill arguing that it would “censor” legal free speech. Meanwhile, the LSE’s Prof Damian Tambini says that despite objections on the grounds of free speech the bill needs to pass. UK Human Rights Blog have published their analysis on the bill. The Internet Commission have also done a writeup on their recent event on the OSB.

Panel discussion and Q&A: The Online Safety Bill’s Impact on Elections and Democracy
Fair Vote UK and Centre for Democracy will be co-hosting a panel discussion around the OSB’s impact on political discourse and debate in the digital arena, as well as highlighting how civil society can successfully cooperate to make this bill a boon for the health of UK democracy.

Democracy Sector

Police Bill Coalition circulate new parliamentary briefing
The coalition requests assistance in circulating the document amongst potential Conservative rebels, peers who are former judges, lawyers and campaigners. The document was collaboratively written by a range of the coalition member organisations.

Police Bill coalition members stage week of action 11–17 October
Liberty, Amnesty UK, Stonewall, British Institute for Human Rights, the Quakers and others are holding a Week of Action for human rights in the UK. The arrayed organisations plan to meet as many MPs at a constituency level as possible. To get involved email the team Amnesty here.

Conference season is here
The Labour Party Conference kicks off this weekend with the party likely to debate PR, after more than 314 (almost half) Constituency Labour Parties backed the move and 144 sent motions to conference — making this the highest-known number of motions or expressions of interest in a single topic in recent party history. Holly Morgan and the team at Make Votes Matter are looking forward to releasing their new film Equal Votes ahead of the Labour Party Conference.

Labour Party leadership announces return to electoral college system for leadership elections
In a move that will likely inflame factional divisions across the party, Keir Starmer’s leadership is pushing for a vote on a return to the electoral college system. Back in 2014, the One Member One Vote system was introduced, giving party members votes equal value — the system was endorsed with 86% of conference delegates backing the measure. The new system, if confirmed by conference, will see the return of a college system, with a third of votes given to Labour MPs, a third to affiliates and unions and a third to members.

The Constitution Society publishes new report: The Constitution in Review
The UK Constitution Monitoring Group (UKCMG) published its first report this fortnight. The report examines legislation, decisions and events over the first 6 months of this year against a set of 20 principles the Group identified as core to the proper operation of the UK constitution. The UKMCG report notes the scale, speed and piecemeal character of the Electios B This report is the first in a recurring series of six-monthly reviews.

Reshuffle fallout: Chris Pincher replaces Chloe Smith, Gove retains elections brief
According to Matt Gallagher, Policy Officer at Fair Vote UK, Michael Gove’s new list of titles from the reshuffle includes mention of elections, so he appears to retain his overarching role in this area. Meanwhile, Chloe Smith MP has been replaced by Chris Pincher MP on heading up the Elections Bill.

Can you take a couple of quick surveys to help I Have A Voice Youth Ambassadors with their campaigns?
Two of their youth ambassador groups are surveying 16–25 year olds, they’d appreciate any efforts to share their surveys with audiences in this bracket. The links to the surveys are below:
1. What do you think we should all be taught about politics?
2. Have you ever experienced or witnessed discrimination in your classroom or curriculum?

PINF kicking off their new leadership programme
Joe Mitchell and the team at the Public Interest News Foundation are spending the next 8 weeks developing the leadership capacity of 16 people from indie newsrooms from across the UK. PINF’s Impact Fund received 11 eligible expressions of interest, who will now work with a research expert to discuss and develop their ideas before making final proposals. PINF expect to announce the final grantees by the end of the year.

The case for electoral reform from Scotland
William Bain, former Chair of Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and former Labour MP for Glasgow North East, argues the case for electoral reform from a Scottish Labour perspective.

Upcoming two day democracy event: Innocracy 2021
Innocracy is a Berlin-based civil society conference running yearly since 2017. The conference is largely focused on democratic innovation.

Latest House of Commons Library briefings: election turnout
Elise Uberoi has published a new briefing on turnout at elections.

New course from Trust The People
Extinction Rebellion offshoot Trust The People have launched a new free course on democratic transformation through community power. Find out more here.

Integrity & Transparency

mySociety celebrating FOI achievements across Europe with Right to Know Day on Sept 28
They’re marking Right to Know Day with an online TICTeC, with campaigns and journalists talking about what they’ve achieved through FOI. Check out the event here.

Rebalancing upstream and downstream scrutiny of government
Writing for the UK Constitutional Law Association Richard Mackenzie-Gray Scott, Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, highlights the marginalisation of Parliament and judicial deference to Government decisions during the period of pandemic national emergency. That these trends risk the erosion of public trust in government and more widely, in the processes and institutions that are meant to uphold the rule of law and democracy.

Elections

Electoral Commission publish report on the May 2021 elections
The report covers how the elections were run, how voters found participating in the elections and the experience of campaigning. The EC found that despite the unusual conditions and considerable pressure on election delivery staff and volunteers, the polls were well run.

New Welsh proposals for multi-day polling and polling stations in shops and schools
The Welsh Government is keen to make it easier for people to vote, with new ‘flexible voting’ options being proposed including allowing voting to take place over multiple days, as well as seeing shops and schools hosting polling stations to boost turnout.

Saving candidate websites after elections
Websites for local candidates tend to disappear after elections, this new archiving project is trying to save them. If you’re interested in election archiving, the British Library tried something similar in 2019.

London celebrates London Voter Registration Week
A whole host of democracy orgs including Shout Out UK, the Greater London Assembly, Hope Not Hate and the Association for Citizenship Teaching, have come together to boost registration efforts across the capital.

Funding Democracy

Royal Society of the Arts Catalyst funding applications open 27th September
The RSA’s Catalyst programme is designed to help seed and scale eligible projects with funding available up to £10,000. Find out more on the RSA website.

And Finally…

Dark Matter Labs on balance governance and ‘behaving well’
Good long read on the system of governance, risk-holding, autonomy, accountability and power from the #BeyondtheRules project.

Firming up democracy’s soft underbelly
The International Forum for Democratic Studies has launched their final report in their series on sharp power and democratic resilience. The paper, authored by Christopher Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy, reviews the findings of eight papers that highlight serious vulnerabilities in the pillars of open societies.

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 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 Joe Mitchell — Programme Manager at Public Interest News Foundation, Jon Morter of The Progressive Alliance, Holly Morgan-Davies — Alliance/Grassroots at Make Votes Matter, Myf Nixon — Communications at mySociety, Matthew Gallagher — Fair Vote and Rebecca Deegan — Founder of I Have A Voice.

See you next time, add to your calendar

James, Molly, and The Centre for Democracy team

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