UK Democracy Bulletin, 9th September 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 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: email@example.com
- subscribe link for these emails
- read / share this email on medium
- add our fortnightly check-in to your calendar
- add all democracy events to your calendar
- all upcoming events from across the sector (17) add your event
- all current job adverts (15) add your vacancy
- grants and paid fellowships (50+) add your grant
- Queen Elizabeth II passes away
- Democracy Network new website, awarded £270k grant, partners with centre for democracy
- Legislative Theatre new affordable two-day trainings across the UK
- Movement Forward new tactical voting coalition launches
- Labour Commission on Constitution rumoured to publish autumn report
- Right to strike threatened by Truss
- Police issue secret orders to disclose officer relationships with journos
In case you missed it…
You can read this Democracy Bulletin email on Medium.
Thanks to our contributors
Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Meetup. This week we were joined by Joe Mitchell — Public Interest News Foundation, Oli Whittington — Nesta, Rebecca Deegan — I Have A Voice, Zarino Zappia — Engage Liverpool CIC, Gavin Barker — Citizen Network, Ciaran Cummins — NatCen, Katy Rubin — Legislative Theatre, Jessie Joe Jacobs — Democracy Network and Pilar Garvin, Democracy Network.
Sign the Ecosystem Pledge
The Ecosystem Pledge is a statement of intent, now backed by 73 signatory organisations from across the democracy sector, including Involve, Democracy Network, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Death of Queen Elizabeth II
With the sad news of the Queen’s passing, we understand that during the period of official mourning legislation is likely to be paused for up to 10 days. Prince Charles as heir apparent has now acceded to the throne as King Charles III. The Constitution Unit produced this guide as to what happens next.
UK Govt announces Data Protection and Digital Information Bill
Terming the new Bill the ‘Data Oligarch’s Charter’, Open Rights Group claim the new legislation amounts to a ‘bonfire of our data rights’ that will turn the UK into a ‘digital police state’. The bill had a second reading in the House of Commons on September 5th.
Proposed reforms to Electoral Commission draw significant criticism
Last month, the government released its draft statement outlining the new priorities for the Electoral Commission. The proposals have been met with significant criticism with former Electoral Commissioner, David Howarth, stating they are “precisely the kind of partisan interference with the Commission that we feared”. Meanwhile, Unlock Democracy has written to the Levelling Up secretary to voice their concerns, suggesting the move is an attempt to neuter the independence and potency of the commission.
Centre for Democracy and Democracy Network announce new partnership
Beginning this month, Democracy Network and the Centre for Democracy have agreed to work together in close collaboration. The two teams will work together to produce the fortnightly Democracy Bulletin, Democracy Meetups and maintain the jobs, events and funding databases.
Democracy Meetup moves to Thursdays, Centre for Democracy to launch new Democracy Map
As part of the new partnership Centre for Democracy are rescheduling Democracy Meetup sessions to Thursdays at 2pm every fortnight. Based on their research and work over recent years, the Centre for Democracy will soon be launching a new Democracy Map, charting all 750+ democracy organisations across the United Kingdom. If you’d like a preview, please email email@example.com.
Democracy Network launches website, planning conferences, new funding, hiring
Jessie Joe Jacobs, Coordinator of the Democracy Network, reports the launch of their new website. If you haven’t already, head over there now, sign up for their newsletter and join the network. But that’s not all — last month DN received a further £270,000 in funding from the Open Society Foundation, as a result they’re now looking to hire two new exciting roles (more soon). As conference season kicks off, Jessie and the Democracy Network team, will be speaking at the Labour Party and Conservative Party conferences, as well as the Democracy R&D conference in Berlin. But that’s not all — word on the grapevine says that Democracy Network are planning their own democracy festival next year — stay tuned!
Mevan Babakar joins Google as their new News and Information Credibility Lead
Mevan Babakar is going back to their roots in misinformation as Google’s new News and Information Credibility Lead. Mevan has just served a term as Democracy Club’s Interim CEO, following on from their role as Deputy CEO & COO at Full Fact. Congratulations Mevan!
Democracy drinks & coworking day brings together orgs across the UK
This week Democracy Network and the Centre for Democracy hosted their third democracy coworking day this year, with a lively democracy drinks session bringing together democracy organisations to collaborate and hatch plans.
Labour for a New Democracy prepare for Conference
With a new 2022 conference motion, PR campaign Labour for a New Democracy set their collective eye on Labour Party conference. Join L4ND tonight for their pre-conference event setting out their plans.
Join Nesta for their democracy innovation report launch
With trust in political representatives and our democratic system at an all-time low, the case for building more inclusive and participatory systems of governance is growing. Next week 13th September, Nesta are launching their new report What’s next for democratic innovation? Register for the event for free.
I Have A Voice ask: should voting be compulsory?
How mySociety’s TheyWorkForYou quietly powers key democratic infrastructure
Myf Nixon, mySociety’s Marketing & Communications Manager, unpacks the vital role that TheyWorkForYou plays for civil society organisations, including the civil service. Noting that even MPs’ offices use their alerts services to stay up to date, whilst civil servants often scan their ministers’ pages to better understand their history and views. mySociety are on the lookout for volunteers to assist with their WhatDoTheyKnow FOI service, get in touch to help!
DemocracyNext launches September 15th
Claudia Chwalisz, who until recently led the OECD’s democratic innovations group, is launching a new organisation called DemocracyNext. The organisation’s mission is to build democratic institutions and frameworks that will encourage more participatory forms of citizen engagement. Join them on September 15th, 17:00–18:30, for the official online launch of DemocracyNext.
Legislative Theatre trainings coming to a town near you, reports Katy Rubin
Katy Rubin is a Legislative Theatre(LT) practitioner, and brings news that a series of 2-day LT trainings has been commissioned and subsidised by the Lankelly Chase Foundation. The trainings are designd to be affordable and directed at anyone interested in weaving more creative techniques and exercises into participatory processes. The first weekend is 5–6 November, in partnership with Union Chapel in London.
New NatCen series focuses on deliberative research
Ciaran Cummins, Senior Researcher at NatCen’s Centre for Deliberative Research, reports that their new ‘Deliberate’ series explores the theory and practice of deliberative research, its relationship to deliberative democracy and the impact it can have on citizens and policy. Take a look and watch their past events.
Engage Liverpool announce their new autumn seminar series
The events focus on local democracy and citizen engagement in Liverpool, how ordinary people — citizens — feel about the way their city is run and they think about the state of their local democracy and decision making processes. The talks feature Dr Camila Vergara and Jon Alexander and run from 13th October to 10th November, find your ticket here.
Mile End Institute conference celebrates women’s postwar contribution to politics
Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th of September will see the Mile End Institute host their ‘Breaking the Glass Chamber’ conference. The conference will celebrate the post-war contribution of women to British public and political life as well as exploring what politics has meant to women in the second half of the century. Check out the full list of panels across the conference.
ElectHer to host webinar series across September hearing from women in politics
Every Tuesday evening this September from 7:30–9 pm, ElectHer will host a webinar series exploring women’s experiences and journeys in politics. They will hear from women currently working in politics across the UK to discuss their roles and offer advice to other women taking their first steps into politics. Join them for the next session on September 13th which looks at what life has been like in the Scottish Parliament for three MSPs.
Constitution Unit webinar to discuss conventions of a Caretaker government
Since the announcement that Boris Johnson would resign as Prime Minister, the UK has widely been seen to be operating under a ‘caretaker government’. In a webinar on the 6th of October, The Constitution Unit will host a number of speakers to discuss the conventions surrounding such a government and ask whether they need to be clarified or reformed.
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform are hiring
LDER are increasing their campaigning work to bring about a change to proportional representation ahead of the next general election. They are looking for funding and are also hiring three volunteer roles — Local Media Coordinator, Communications Coordinator, Video Editing and Publishing Manager — to help them in their efforts. Each role requires a few hours each month, so get in touch if you have skills in any of these areas.
Sheila McKechnie Foundation to host online discussion with authors of ‘Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything Is All of Us’
On Thursday 22nd of September, authors of the book Citizens — Irenie Ekkeshis and Jon Alexander — will take part in an online event to discuss the ideas behind their work and what lessons can be learnt by campaigners. Attendees are invited to contribute as much or as little as they want throughout the evening so be sure to book your tickets asap for a chance to participate in what promises to be a lively discussion!
People Powered celebrates second birthday
People Powered is a global participatory democracy community hub spanning 73 members and 28 countries. They provide a range of in-depth resources for organisations and communities around the world, including a comprehensive multilingual resource hub, online training courses and a successful mentoring programme. Find out more.
Policy Exchange report proposes changes to the machinery of government
This month, Policy Exchange is releasing a series of publications answering the question ‘What Do We Want From the Next Prime Minister?’ The second paper in the instalment puts forward a series of reforms the Prime Minister should implement to overcome the current structural and administrative inadequacies of government. With a focus on the civil service, ministerial capability, the machinery of government and public bodies, the report draws a roadmap to a more streamlined governmental structure.
Ian Byrne MP warned of threat to life
Earlier last month, Labour MP Ian Byrne was contacted regarding a possible threat to the life of their person, family and staff. A far right extremist who had made threats to the Jewish community and had previously made comments about the murder of Sir David Amess MP, said that Amess would not be the last to die, and was later spotted outside Byrne’s constituency office. This March Ian Byrne was awarded Member of Parliament of the Year by charity Patchwork Foundation.
Labour Commission on the Constitution due to publish report in autumn
Gavin Barker of Citizen Network reports on recent discussions with members of the Labour Party. The much-awaited report is due for release in autumn and is a key opportunity, Gavin says, for democracy organisations to give a very vocal collective response and use the report as a platform as a focus for constructive engagement.
Government prepare attack on right to strike
Despite their own workplace strike just weeks earlier against Boris Johnson, Transport Minister Grant Shapps and Conservative leadership contender Sunak and new Prime Minister Truss have outlined plans to drastically curtail the right of workers to strike for better pay and conditions. In new plans disguised as ‘modernisation’, Shapps will work to stop co-ordinated industrial action, limit picketing further and institute a cooling-off period after strikes. As part of the leadership election Truss and Sunak outlined various plans to further restrict the right to strike, from banning strikes involving public services to increasing the ballot threshold from 40–50%.
Conservative plan to pack the Lords, Gordon Brown urges Starmer to abolish upper chamber if elected
New Tory plans have emerged to pack the House of Lords with up to 50 new peers. The plans, specifically designed to override key votes on controversial legislation, were designed by lobbying group CT Group, run by key Johnson adviser Lynton Crosby. Gordon Brown has urged the Labour leader to stick to his plans to abolish the House of Lords, warning that the plans ‘legitimise straightforward bribery’. Electoral Reform Society polling found a 54% majority of the public in agreement with Brown, with just 13% backing the move.
Citizen Network rethinks Westminster rule
Gavin Barker and the team at Citizen Network are developing a Charter to End Westminster Rule, completing the work of the Chartists, they argue, that power be restored to local people and communities.
Alliance Now working on Citizen Contract
Trade unions threaten general strike in response to Conservative race to the bottom on workers rights
Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) secretary general Mick Lynch has said he would support a general strike and called for an ‘enormous response’ should Liz Truss move forward with their plan to crack down on unions in response to the escalating rail crisis. Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary appeared to back Lynch’s comments, hitting out the plans by Truss and Shapps, saying the proposals amount to a ‘fundamental attack on a fundamental British liberty’. Citing the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the RMT and CWU unions have called off their strikes over the next weeks.
Movement Forward launches new tactical voting campaign
Bringing together a coalition of tactical voting organisations from recent elections, the new campaign seeks to take tactical voting mainstream, to elect a new government and for that government to immediately legislate for proportional representation. Find out more and sign up here.
Liz Truss elected Prime Minister by Conservative Party
Winning the Conservative leadership election earlier this week, Liz Truss met with the Queen and has formed a government. Truss won 81,326 votes (57.4%) of Tory members to the former chancellor’s 60,399 (42.6%), a narrower victory than many had expected.
Integrity & Transparency
UK police chiefs issue secret orders to disclose relationships with journalists
Police officers ordinarily must disclose relationships with convicted criminals or extremists. The new order follows guidance from the College of Policing as part of apparent anti-corruption efforts. It is understood at the policing inspectorate, the HMICFRS, is behind the move. Ruth Smeeth, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, said “Index is increasingly concerned at the seemingly growing perception within the British police that journalists are seen as unsavoury or potentially disreputable individuals for officers to associate with.
UK policing and border control infiltrated by war mentality, says NetPol report
The Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), in partnership with the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have published a new report on the increasingly blurred lines between the police and the military, and that key areas of counter-terrorism, gang policing, border control and anti-protest policing have adopted a war mentality. The report A Very British Problem: the Evolution of Britain’s Militarised Policing Industrial Complex published last month, explores these trends at home and their implications for foreign policing given Britain’s significant influence.
Labour Party publishes Forde Report into antisemitism, sexism, racism and Islamophobia within the party
The Forde Report was commissioned by the Labour leadership following the leak of a document detailing private WhatsApp messages exposing acute factionalism in Labour’s efforts to combat antisemitism. The unpublished Labour Party document, leaked in April 2020, claimed that factional hostility towards Corbyn contributed to the party’s ineffective handling of antisemitism complaints and undermined its 2017 election campaign, showing senior officials from the party’s right wing, who worked at its HQ, channelled resources and efforts within the party to undermine a Labour election win in 2017.
ByLine Times suggest Truss deliberately misled public on campaign trail
Liz Truss has been elected as the next Prime Minister of Britain after 81,326 Conservative party members (0.3% of the British electorate) voted for her. Tasked with re-establishing a sense of trust with the British public in the post-Johnson era, Adam Beinjov from the ByLine Times questions whether she is as honest and straightforward as she suggests exposing a number of false claims she made on the campaign trail.
Constitution Unit report examines the independence of parliamentary watchdogs
The Constitution Unit has published the results of its landmark investigation into the independence and accountability of parliament’s watch dogs. Based on an in-depth study of five major watchdogs, the report looks at the role of these constitutional bodies in safeguarding our democracy and the ideal balance to be struck between independence and accountability in their relationship with parliament.
Full Fact to develop live fact-checking tool
Full Fact is developing a verification tool to fact-check the claims made by politicians in real time. The tool would enable facts to “flash in chyrons [on-screen graphics] under the faces of politicians and pundits debating on TV” and be checked live with minimal input from an operator. With recent financial backing from Google.org, Full Fact is looking to scale up the technology by using artificial intelligence before rolling it out on the global stage.
Netpol call on campaigners to help monitor impact of ‘anti-protest’ laws
As of July 2022, Netpol is starting a two-year effort to monitor, document and analyse the effects of the new ‘anti-protest’ legislation which was passed into law as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. They are keen to understand how the new laws are being implemented by different police forces and are calling on campaigners across England and Wales to share and submit evidence.
Jury acquits Bristol policing bill protester
Facing charges of violent disorder and affray at Bristol Crown Court on 25th August, Ailsa Rauh was acquitted by a jury of their peers. Ailsa’s acquittal is an important reminder that self-defence is not an offence and that we do have a legal right to fight back against violent and disproportionate policing, Network for Police Monitoring say. Follow similar stories at #DefendDissent.
Devolved Democracy & Local Government
PM Truss rules out Scottish referendum
Truss has moved beyond recent government arguments on the referendum, arguing instead that the Scottish Government’s recent Referendum Bill, currently up for consideration by the UK Supreme Court, is illegal. Truss’s statement lacks legal basis as the Supreme Court is yet to rule on whether the referendum bill proposed by the Scottish Government is within Holyrood’s competence. While matters which relate to the Union are reserved to Westminster, the holding of referendums is devolved. The Supreme Court is due to hear the case in October, around a year before the SNP’s proposed date for the referendum vote to be held.
Landmark devolution deal for East Midlands draws criticism
A first-of-its-kind devolution deal has been announced for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire which will see the four regions led by a single mayor as of 2024. Under the new Mayoral Combined County Authority (MCCA) plan, the region will receive £1.14bn in government funding as part of the Levelling Up agenda. Centre for Cities has criticised the model however, suggesting the merger will group together two counties with distinct economic needs making it hard for the new mayor to deliver a regeneration programme that works for both areas. Meanwhile, leaders in Leicestershire criticised their exclusion from the deal saying they would now miss out on key regional funding and as such are being “relegated to the second division”.
New Local report finds strong appetite for regional decision-making autonomy
Community Calling, a report from New Local, has found overwhelming support for localised policy solutions. An online survey with 2,000 members of the general public found that 79% think Westminster and Whitehall are making decisions about communities they know little about, whilst 75% think that giving communities more of a say in local decision-making is more effective than central planning.
LGiU publish new report measuring decentralisation across the UK
The Local Democracy Research Centre brings together experts from local government and academia to produce practical research on local democracy around the world. In a newly commissioned project, researchers from the University of Kent have built and tested a model to assess the degree of decentralisation across different scales, geographies and policy areas within the UK. Check out the first two papers as part of the ‘Devometrics — measuring decentralisation’ series.
Institute for Government event explores the impact of devolution on Levelling Up
The government’s flagship Levelling Up agenda will involve a significant devolution of power to allow local authorities to best decide how funds are spent. On the 12th of September, the Institute for Government will host an in-person and online event to explore how exactly power ought to be devolved to local authorities and what the potential trade-offs might be with this approach.
State of the Union: Hansard Society event unpacks involvement of devolved institutions in UK Statutory Instruments
On the 29th of September, Hansard Society for Parliamentary Democracy will host an event with several parliamentarians from across the UK to discuss the role of devolved institutions in the development and approval of UK Statutory Instruments within their areas of devolved policy. The event is online and is free to join.
Democracy & Media
Government announces new anti-SLAPP measures
SLAPPs refer to the phenomenon whereby wealthy litigants use or abuse legal processes to silence critics and stories that could have damaging reputation effects. The anti-SLAPPs coalition has been pushing for government action on SLAPPs and has welcomed the news from Justice Secretary Dominic Raab that the government intends to introduce a host of legislation aimed at putting an end to their use.
Emily Maitlis claims BBC news output is shaped by “active agent of the Conservative Party”
Former Newsnight reporter, Emily Maitlis, has claimed the BBC’s news output is being shaped by board member Sir Robbie Gibb, who previously worked as Theresa May’s director of communications and helped set up GB News. In her MacTaggart memorial lecture, she described Gibb as an “active agent of the Conservative Party”, suggesting he used his position as a BBC board member to influence the direction of BBC news coverage. She went on to suggest that this intimate relationship between the government and the BBC board has meant too often the BBC has sought to ‘pacify’ Number 10 when disputes over coverage emerge.
Strike action brews over plans to close BBC News channel
With the BBC due to celebrate their centenary celebrations next month, corporation journalists have threatened strike action over new plans to merge BBC World News and the BBC News channel, arguing that this would significantly reduce newsgathering and airtime for domestic stories and affect UK democracy.
Democracy Network awarded £270,000 by Open Society Foundation
The team at Democracy Network and Involve have landed a major new funding award of £270,000 for the fledgling platform from the Open Society Foundation. This comes atop Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s earlier funding award of £300,000 over three years. It is understood that the new OSF funding has been largely earmarked for influencing work.
Civic Power Fund announces new Community Action Fund
A new Community Action Fund has been set up by Civic Power Fund to provide support to grassroots organisations that are building power in their community and campaigning for change. Grants will be awarded on a sliding scale between £2,500 and £20,000 and will prioritise organisations led by people with lived experience of injustice as well as those excluded from democracy. Civic Power Fund are also expanding their Board of Trustees and are looking for 3–4 additional trustees to join their founding team. The deadline for applications is 12th September.
Polly Curtis recommends: regaining voters’ trust
Demos Chief Executive Polly Curtis recommends this incisive article (paywall) in The Times on the long road to politicians regaining voters’ trust.
Podcast of the week: mySociety on democracy in a climate emergency
Myf Nixon and Siôn Williams of mySociety take to Delib’s Practical Democracy podcast to talk about how local authorities can play a critical role when it comes to both climate engagement and creating a liveable world for future generations. Meanwhile, scientists estimate that we are on the brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points.
Ciaran Cummins, Senior Researcher at NatCen’s Centre for Deliberative Research, recommends this “superb” book by Ana Tanasoca — Deliberation Naturalized: Improving Real Existing Deliberative Democracy.
Misinformation failed to penetrate mainstream discourse during French elections, Institute for Strategic Dialogue reports
According to analysts at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the 2022 French election information ecosystem stood firm against misinformation attempts. In their report (in French), ISD unpick the factors that came together to explain the resilience of the electoral system at this critical time.
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 12 Sept: Trustee at Civic Power Fund
- Apply by 12 Sept: Head of Business Development & Partnerships at Switchback (£45000–50000)
Jobs with upcoming deadlines
- Apply by 14 Sept: Senior Researcher at Institute for Government (£38,000 to £44,000)
- Apply by 14 Sept: Researcher at Demos (£27,000 — £31,000)
- Apply by 15 Sept: Youth Engagement Coordinator at British Youth Council (£25,927 plus London Weighting)
- Apply by 19 Sept: Head of Fundraising and Membership at Compass (£35,000-£40,000)
- Apply by 25 Sept: Press and Campaigns Officer at CitizensUK (£26,623 (plus £3,000 London Weighting where applicable)
- Apply by 30 Sept: Local Media Coordinator at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 30 Sept: Communications Coordinator at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 30 Sept: Video editing and publishing manager at Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (Voluntary)
- Apply by 7 Oct: Senior Campaign Technologist at 38Degrees (£56,000 — £63,000)
- Open Deadline: Chief Operating Officer at Democracy Club (£40k pro rata)
- Open Deadline: Board Member — Treasurer at New Economy Organisers Network (Voluntary
- Open Deadline: Board Member — New Economy Expertise at New Economy Organisers Network (Voluntary)
- Open Deadline: Legislative Director at Fair Vote UK (£38–45k)
- Various role openings at College Green Group
- Open Deadline: COP26 Communications Officer at Wellbeing Economy Alliance (£30k pro rata)
Unsalaried job listings #ShowTheSalary
- Open Deadline: Contract Specialist (Part-time) at Purpose (salary not given)
- Open Deadline: Campaigns Adviser at Digital Action (salary not given)
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