UK Democracy Bulletin – November 2023


Monthly news, jobs, grants and gossip from across the democracy sector, brought to you by James Moulding and Max Roche of the UK Democracy Network. Read by 400+ democracy organisations. We read everyone’s newsletters & research so you don’t have to.




  • Centenary Action Group launch new joint campaign to reinstate funding for Disabled candidates
  • Citizens in Power call for a national cultural network for citizen-led decision making
  • UK Government moves to dramatically curtail freedom of expression in leaked plans
  • Climate Emergency UK launch Council Climate Action Scorecards
  • Full Fact successful campaign brings changes to Parliamentary correction system

Important information

You can join the UK Democracy Network as a member here.

You can read and subscribe to the UK Democracy Bulletin on Medium.

Join the UK Democracy Network’s WhatsApp Community, there are currently 9 active groups on topics ranging from AI & Democracy to Democracy Academics Collaboration.

Thanks to our contributors

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Democracy Check-In. We were joined by Grace Barnett – Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake – Unlock Democracy, Titus Alexander, Liz Speight – Centenary Action Group and Barnaby Flynn of Global People Power. Thank you to David Jubb – Citizens in Power, Calum Green – Involve, Fraser Henderson – Association of Consultation & Engagement Professionals and Annie Pickering – Climate Emergency UK for emailing in your contributions.

Upcoming Legislation


Online Safety Act a threat to civil liberties, says Big Brother Watch

The legislative behemoth that was the Online Safety Bill has completed passage through Parliament and is now set to become law, but whilst many will welcome the legislation, Big Brother Watch highlights five aspects of the bill that threaten civil rights. The Bill is a ‘Frankenstein’s monster of a Bill that will set free expression and privacy back decades in this country,’ they write.

Democracy Sector


Upcoming Democracy Network events:

  • 9th Nov 3pm, AI & Democracy Webinar: Integrating AI into Citizens’ Assemblies, Register
  • 15th November 6pm, Democracy Drinks London, Register
  • 16th November 2.30pm, Democracy Offers & Needs Market, Register
  • Media Training sessions
  • 7th December 6pm, Democracy Drinks Belfast, Register (location TBC)
  • 8th December, Democracy Coworking Belfast, Register (location TBC)
  • 13th December, Democracy Coworking in Manchester, Register
  • 9-10th January 2024, Democracy Network Conference, London – Save the Date!


Democracy Network Conference save the date

Join the UK Democracy Network for our two day annual conference in London on the 9th and 10th January. Please save the date – there’s even rumours of a ‘Democracy’s Got Talent’ special evening event! Event page coming soon…

Winners of the Democracy Awards, Democracy Network Annual Conference 2022

Winners of the Democracy Awards, Democracy Network Annual Conference 2022


Migrant Democracy Project launch new MPower Political Leadership Programme

In a watershed moment for the campaign, Migrant Democracy Project are kicking off their new MPower leadership training programme, aiming to provide key knowledge and skills to 10 first-generation migrants to become candidates and stand in local elections across the UK – the deadline for submitting applications to the programme is Friday 17th November 2023 – spread the word and share with your networks to share with as many first generation migrants as possible – email Teo Benea, MDP’s new Training Organiser, with any questions


mySociety to celebrate 20 years next week

Next Wednesday mySociety will celebrate 20 years bolstering our democracy, creating the foundations for stronger communities and civic culture, and a more transparent politics, through their impressive suite of tools for journalists, local officials, campaigners, activists, researchers and more. They’ll celebrate their successes by highlighting and awarding the amazing work of everyone they helped along the way.


This Is The North 2023 coming to Preston, 29th November

People’s Powerhouse’s annual convention will be coming to Preston this November. PPH’s Chair Edna Robinson said: ‘We’re incredibly excited to bring the This Is the North Convention to Preston this November. The people of the North will gather to raise their collective voice across this brilliant city to demand a North that is fit for our future.’ Register now for tickets.


Access to free legal advice via LawWorks for not-for-profits

LawWorks is a charity working in England and Wales to enable access to justice through free legal advice, and their not-for-profit programme brokers free legal advice for smaller not-for-profit organisations. If your organisation is facing a legal issue and you would like free legal advice, you can find out more about how LawWorks might be able to help, including details on the eligibility requirements and how to apply for support, on their website


Centenary Action Group launch new joint campaign to reinstate funding for Disabled candidates

Elect Her, Disability Rights UK, Disability Policy Centre and Centenary Action Group published their joint statement, backed by over 30 democracy sector organisations. The statement calls on the UK Government to urgently reinstate an Access to Elected Office Fund to support Disabled candidates to contest elections. But that’s not all – don’t miss CAG’s #GenderEqualParliament Pledge.


50:50 Parliament prepare for Ask Her To Stand Day 2023

This November 21st 50:50 Parliament aim to inspire women across the UK to #SignUpToStand. Frances Scott and the team are holding a big event in Parliament that evening, so register now and don’t miss out.

Ask Her To Stand Day 2022 (Photo Credit: 50:50 Parliament)


Citizens in Power call for a national cultural network for citizen-led decision making

David Jubb and the team at Citizens In Power are testing interest in a new UK-based network for a transition to citizen-led decision making. The proposal outlines the network benefits of such an approach, from peer learning, professional development, coordinated advocacy, deduplication improved access to funds, resources and more. If you are interested, read the proposal and respond to the proposal by the 11th December.


More than 500 Republic protesters turned up to protest the King’s Speech yesterday

Yesterday more than 500 republican protesters gathered on Whitehall to show their displeasure at King Charles’ State Opening of Parliament. Republic says that this is a sign of a ‘growing republican movement’ in the UK. Earlier this year saw more than 52 republicans arrested for protesting Charles’ coronation, including Republic Chief Exec Graham Smith. Meanwhile, their petition demanding a public vote on the future of the monarchy is close to reaching its target of 25,000 signatures.


Titus Alexander organising new Edinburgh Reith Lecture Reading Group

The new reading group will meet in Atholl Crescent, West End on the 7th, 21st November and 5th, 19th December. The group will discuss Ben Ansell’s Reith Lectures based on their book Why Politics Fails: The Five Traps of the Modern World and How to Escape Them, email Titus if you’re interested in joining the new group. Tickets may still be available for the third lecture, in Sunderland on 14th November.


Unlock Democracy launching new Automatic Voter Registration campaign

This week Grace Barnett and the team at Unlock Democracy kick off their new Automatic Voter Registration campaign in Parliament on the 8th November at 4pm.



LGIU warn against newly launched and half-finished absentee vote application service

Last week a new web service for postal and proxy votes came online. Previously electors had to fill in a paper form and send it away to receive their absentee ballot. However, many electoral administrators think the new system has been rushed into service. The pre-existing service for processing paper ballots has been shut down, whilst paper ballots are still in use, forcing election officials to process new ballots one by one until the full switchover to online proxy ballots in January, Local Government Information Unit note.


May elections highlight systematic barriers for disabled voters, say My Vote My Voice 

Problems with access at the local elections in May combined with new voter ID laws and a lack of information in accessible formats highlights the systematic issues facing disabled voters, according to My Vote My Voice. They’re campaigning for greater support at the general election for disabled voters to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the local elections and no one is denied the right to vote.


Electoral Commission highlight recommendations and challenges following latest recall petition

Earlier this year, constituents in Rutherglen and Hamilton successfully triggered a recall petition with more than 10% constituents signing before the 31 July deadline, Margaret Ferrier was duly ousted and Labour MP Michael Shanks elected in their place. However, the Electoral Commission notes a range of areas in which the recall petition process can be improved and refined, such as locating adequate venues for signing places and ensuring extended opening hours for petitioners.


New research demonstrates null effect of social media advertising on voter registration

Research by Asli Unan, Peter John, Florian Foos and Vanessa Cheng-Matsuno finds ‘no evidence consistent with digital campaigning meaningfully affecting voter registrations’. Download the research on SocArXiv.


FPTP leaves SNP vulnerable at upcoming GE, according to IfG research

First Past The Post has served the SNP well in recent elections due to divisions in the unionist vote, winning the vast majority of seats with a vote share of between 34-54%. However, according to new from the Institute for Government, FPTP now makes the SNP vulnerable according to pollster Peter Kellner who highlights that an 8.5% swing to Labour wins Labour 12 seats and a further swing of just 4.5% would win Labour 12 more seats giving them a majority in Scotland.

Civic Education


The Politics Project plan new GE Strategy Day

Hattie Andrews and the team at The Politics Project are planning another General Election Strategy Day. Their last, held on Jan 25 this year, was an amazing success and confluence of a wide and diverse range of civic education stakeholders from across the nations of the UK – we look forward to hearing more details about this soon.


National Voter Registration Week – 4th March 2024

Democracy Classroom and their partner organisations have agreed a date for their collaborative National Voter Registration Week (NVRW), commencing on the 4th March 2024 – this is an opportunity for those running voter registration campaigns to focus efforts, work together, and amplify the reach of the various campaigns. NVRW will run in collaboration with National Voter Registration Day that is planned for April and is being led by My Life My Say.


The Politics Project launch student design competition #WhyVote

Creative Conscience, Democracy Classroom and The Political Project (TPP) have teamed up to host a new student design competition to support young people to develop creative resources in the run up to the elections next year. Winning entries will receive £200 and will be used as part of national campaigns to engage young people in next year’s elections – judges of the designs include Baroness Nicky Morgan, Alistair Campbell and Trevor Robinson OBE among others. TPP invite democracy orgs to share this competition with their audiences, schools and networks.


Democracy Classroom launch new website

Democracy Classroom’s new online hub is designed to make it easier for teachers, youth workers and democracy practitioners to access the suite of collective support available through their website, from teacher guides to games – and listing their full range of programmes and resources. Check it out now.

Democratic Innovation and Reform


Constitution Unit host discussion on results of two year democracy inquiry

UCL’s Constitution Unit has been examining public attitudes to democracy in the UK as part of a two year inquiry. On November 27th, they’re launching their new report drawing together the findings – including from two large-scale surveys and a citizens’ assembly – reflecting on what kind of democracy the UK wants and what policy makers can do about it. Register for the launch event now.

Public debate on sentencing is ‘stuck in a dysfunctional and reactive cycle’ Justice Committee warns

In a new report by the Justice Committee in partnership with Involve, the cross-party committee of MPs have concluded the persistence of the view among the public that justice is not severe enough, represents a long term public policy challenge that needs to be addressed. In addition to a public poll of more than 2,057 people, Involve ran a deliberative engagement exercise with the Committee, with 25 adults across three half-day sessions to discuss the current justice system and sentencing approach.

Scrapping Voter ID laws could save £120m, says Unlock Democracy 

In a submission to HM Treasury, Unlock Democracy has called on the government to scrap the Voter ID legislation saying it could save £120m. Director of Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake, says it is an unaffordable and unnecessary cost given there has been hardly any cases of voter impersonation fraud over the last decade.


Labour backtracks on Lords reform amid criticism

Keir Starmer is reportedly watering down the party’s plans for an elected second chamber over fears of a backlash from the House of Lords. Last year’s Gordon Brown Commission raised the prospect of major Labour Party reform of the House of Lords, however this looks to be shelved in order to prioritise key legislative objectives.


Government rejects calls to criminalise lying in Parliament

Two petitions involving nearly 250,000 signatures resulted in a parliamentary debate on whether the Government should criminalise deliberate lying to Parliament. The SNP’s Owen Johnson proposed setting up a Truth Commission to fact check MPs, but legislation has been shot down by the Government over fears that it could restrict freedom of speech in Parliament. 


Successful Full Fact campaign brings changes to Parliamentary correction system

Over 50,000 Full Fact supporters have been campaigning since April 2022 to amend the way the corrections system works in Parliament. MPs voted to change the system following the groundswell of support, meaning that if an MP now makes a mistake when speaking in Parliament and wants to make a correction, they will now be able to do so. Full Fact is hailing the change as a ‘really important day for our democracy’.


Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, holds Constituency Assembly

Labour MP Darren Jones held a Constituency Assembly earlier this month in his seat in Bristol North West. The assembly involved 50 local constituents and gave them an opportunity to discuss and debate important issues with one another as well as with their MP. The initiative has been proposed by Compassion in Politics to help strengthen civic involvement in politics.


No major constitutional or electoral change without referendum, argue Policy Exchange

Ian Mansfield, Director of Policy Exchange, has argued Labour must not be allowed to push forward with plans to change the parliamentary franchise or constitutional makeup of the UK without a referendum. In an article for ConservativeHome they argue that any ‘major changes to parliamentary democracy should not be made without the clear support of the British people’.


Integrity and Transparency


Growing state intolerance towards protest related to the Israel-Hamas War

Liberty and the Network for Police Monitoring have raised the alarm over recent comments by UK Government ministers and by conditions imposed on protests.

In recent weeks Home Secretary Suella Braverman sowed confusion over law relating to waving Palestinian flags or expressing support for Palestine. The London-based Met Police have placed serious conditions on protests, one of which prevented ‘any person participating or associated with’ the protest from deviating from the route, or else they may face arrest – effectively intimidating protesters and providing the police carte blanche for making arrests.

Network for Police Monitoring also noted the Metropolitan Police cancelling related events including an event organised by the Palestine Festival of Literature at Conway Hall in London, which was cancelled ‘due to security concerns’ after police reportedly ‘leaned on’ the venue. Legal observers at protests across the UK have reported increasingly aggressive police behaviour, including the targeting by riot police of ‘people wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh’, as well as harassment of legal observers themselves.


UK Government moves to dramatically curtail freedom of expression in leaked plans

Officials have drawn up plans to expand the definition of extremism to include anyone who ‘undermines’ UK values and institutions, according to documents reportedly seen by the Observer newspaper. The Dept. for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities started a review of non-violent extremism earlier this year. Dozens of civil liberties groups including Liberty and Index on Censorship, rallied against the plans as an ‘unwarranted attack on freedom of expression’. Amnesty International UK’s racial justice director, Ilyas Nagdee, said ‘this definition must not be accepted or implemented’.


Liberty to sue Home Secretary over anti-protest legislation

Liberty is taking Suella Braverman to court over their decision to introduce anti-protest measures to the Public Order Act that had previously been voted out of the bill due to their draconian nature. Braverman was later able to introduce the amendments as secondary legislation without consulting Parliament.


Justice for Bristol Protesters call for public inquiry into #KillTheBill protests

During the Bristol protests against the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill on 21 March 2021, more than 100 people were injured by police. Police deployed pepper spray, beating, attack dogs and the controversial tactic of riot shield blading. Campaigners argue Mariella Gedge-Rogers, currently serving a 5.5 year sentence for riot for their part in the protests, was pinned to the ground by 3 officers and had their hand stamped on in an unprovoked police attack – yet no single officer has been questioned or called to account for their actions that day. Sign the petition and find out more.


Government orders UKRI to sack advisers over ‘extremist’ views

One month on after UK Secretary of State for Science Michelle Donelan attached the ‘creep of wokeism’ in science, initiating a review into the sex and gender questions in scientific research, Donelan last week ordered UKRI Chief Exec Ottoline Leyser to disband a newly formed equality, diversion and inclusion panel over accusations of members sharing ‘extremist’ views and thereby contravening the Nolan Principles.


International coalition of human rights groups call for UK and worldwide halt on facial recognition technology

180 rights groups and tech experts have warned of significant human rights threats associated with facial recognition technology. In a joint letter to legislators, the collection of organisations across six continents urged for a ban on the use of the technology at a time when the UK government is considering expanding its use in policing. See Big Brother Watch’s recent work for more in depth analysis.

Funding Democracy


Help us populate our sector funding list

The Democracy Network is part-way through refurbishing our resources and directories, including the UK Democracy Map and funding list. This is the current list of active democracy grant funds in the UK, please review and tell us if anything is missing, or if we’ve made an error – alternatively, add any grant funds we’ve missed via this form.


UK Democracy Network, Compass and Unlock Democracy submit joint JRRT bid for new campaign project

The Democracy Network has this week submitted a bid for funding the coalition campaign efforts voted for by the sector, brought together through the recent sector-wide development days. Unlock Democracy and Compass joined the bid to continue the Powering Up project and work more closely alongside sector organisations in the run-up to the election.


Nuffield Foundation present their general election analysis and briefing fund

The Nuffield Foundation have funded a number projects and institutions ahead of the general election, including the Fraser of Allander Institute, the IFS, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, the Social Market Foundation, the Education Policy Institute and London Economic, to a total tune of £526,000. Read more about the projected outcomes and aims of the fund.


The New Institute is looking for Future of Democracy Fellows

The Hamburg based fellowship is fully funded. See here for more information.


Catalyst publish list of third sector funding opportunities

Catalyst has published a full list of third sector funding organisations – check it out now.


Churchill Fellowship open to applications

The paid Churchill Fellowship enables successful applicants to spend 4-8 weeks meeting and working with innovators in your field, anywhere in the world, in person or online, helping you develop your learnings into practical outputs for your community or sector. Find out more.


New Economy Organisers Network apply for further funding to extend their electoral law programme

In recent months, the New Economy Organisers Network (NEON) have been running a programme of high quality briefings on electoral law for campaigners and charities ahead of the 2024 General Election, together with Bates Wells and Stone King. Now they’re looking to extend their electoral law briefings and workshops as the election nears – do you know any relevant funds, can you help fund these important activities?


Campaign Lab develops new electoral law chatbot prototype for charities and campaigners

Campaign Lab’s Lefke Kerr and Jethro Reeve are developing an AI powered document search chatbot to assist campaigners, activists and charities make sense of electoral law documentation from the Electoral Commission, and so far so good. Last month they held a successful testing session, now they’re looking for funding to take the work further, can you help?

Local Government and Devolved Democracy 


Climate Emergency UK launch their Council Climate Action Scorecards

In what is possibly the biggest and first local government accountability exercise of this size and scale, Climate Emergency UK’s new transparency tool surfaces information on all 388 UK councils, gathered from more than 4,000 freedom of information requests – amounting to the first ever complete assessment of council climate action. Join their upcoming sessions exploring how to use the tool or contact Annie Pickering, CE-UK’s CEO, for more information.


Scottish indy poll no longer dominates national politics, according to Tony Blair Institute

New research by The Tony Blair Institute reveals that almost a decade on from the independence referendum, the constitutional question no longer dominates Scottish politics. Whilst 45% want independence, one third of the indy vote agree that independence is not a priority right now due to more pressing matters.


Labour councillors publish report on the case for greater devolution and community power 

Working with New Local, seven Labour councillors from across England have written the report A Labour Vision for Community Power, setting out an agenda for Britain which is driven by the principles of participation, prevention and devolution. With public services and public finance in crisis, the report argues that devolving power to a local level will allow communities to meet local challenges whilst rebuilding trust in a political system that is widely seen as broken. 

Democracy & Media


Public Interest News Foundation Forum convenes indy news publishers

Late last month, dozens of indie news publishers descended on Bristol for a day of speed dating, networking and working together on collective challenges. Jaldeep Katwala and the PINF team showcased their Local News Map and News For All campaign, the new Scottish Beacon team deep dived into their new business model and the afternoon was spent in invigorating open space discussions on a range of topics, from the upcoming election to how to hold local authorities accountable.


Three companies control 90% of national news, according to Media Reform Coalition report

Media Reform Coalition has published their 2023 annual report; Who Owns the UK Media? They find that just three companies – DMG Media, News UK and Reach PLC – dominate 90% of the UK’s national newspaper market, whilst 71% of the local newspaper market is controlled by six companies. Urgent reform is needed, they say, to end ‘decades of failed regulation and political inaction on concentrated media ownership.’

Civic Tech


Newspeak House awarded funding for new GE2024 Election Tech Handbook

Edward Saperia and the team at Newspeak House, the London College of Political Technology, have been awarded a new tranche of funding by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to develop and launch a GE 2024 Election Tech Handbook. Newspeak House ran the 2017 and 2019 Election Tech Handbooks, providing a project board, data library and community organising space for the UK civic tech community during election cycles.


Who Targets Me mull AI election risks

In their latest Full Disclosure newsletter (highly recommend, subscribe here) the team at Who Targets Me assessed the latest government rhetoric around ‘frontier AI risk’ to elections, noting that we’re already struggling with rampant misinformation and disruptive, undemocratic content and risk – so to focus on AI as presenting a new and specific threat is to miss the point – that we should focus on protecting elections and the security of the ballot full stop, by the technical, legal, political and structural protections available to us, i.e preparing for the future, but focusing on the here and now.


Democracy Network & ANTIPARTY AI & Democracy Webinars

Are you interested in applying or experimenting with the new AI large language model tools? Concerned about the impact of AI on democratic processes? Join the Democracy Network’s AI & Democracy WhatsApp Group, Bella Roberts, Founder of ANTIPARTY, is organising new biweekly evening webinars, join the WhatsApp Group to find out more, join the next webinar tomorrow – or watch our previous events on YouTube – How Can Collective Intelligence Empower Our Democracy? & Using Collective Intelligence to Govern AI

And Finally…


Institute for Government analyse ‘game-changer’ by-elections in new podcastLast month the Labour Party overturned significant Conservative majorities in two by-elections, as well as defeating the SNP in the recall election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. The Institute for Government deep dived into the results in a new podcast with a view to what this could mean for 2024.


Leave voters more satisfied with democracy, according to UK in a Changing Europe

Following the 2016 EU referendum those who voted to leave became a lot more satisfied with the way democracy works in the UK, whilst those who backed remain saw a large drop in their level of satisfaction, according to new analysis from UK in a Changing Europe

Featured Upcoming Events 


The UK Democracy Network maintains a full database of events from across the democracy sector.

View the database here – Have we missed something? Add it here!

Featured 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

Apply by 13 Nov: Senior London Organiser at The Equality Trust (£30,995)

Apply by 13 Nov: Senior Salesforce Administration and Development Manager at The RSA (£47-60k)

Apply by 14 Nov: Senior/Researcher at Institute for Government (£29-53k)

Apply by 14 Nov: Head of Regenerative Learning & Design at The RSA (£48-68k)

Apply by 15 Nov: Communications Assistant at Electoral Commission (£29,905)

Apply by 17 Nov: Director of CASM at Demos (£62,400)


Jobs with upcoming deadlines

Apply by 20 Nov: Policy & Parliamentary Relations Manager at Full Fact (£41-44k)

Apply by 21 Nov: Creative Campaigner at Compass

Apply by 27 Nov: Adviser – Digital at Local Government Association (£49,925)

Apply by 30 Nov: Lead Facilitator at Shout Out UK (£27k)



See you next time, add to your calendar

James, Max and the UK Democracy Network team