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Democracy Matters Action Update June 2014

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Members of Democracy Matters are meeting with Stephen Twigg, Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs, at 2pm on Wednesday 18th June to present manifesto ideas on political education and the democratic deficit. Read Stephen Twigg’s talk to the Electoral Reform Society for his current thinking.

If you want to suggest ideas or come to a pre-meeting from 12 – 1 pm on 10 June in London, please email me at .

I will draft a short manifesto on learning for democracy with proposals on equality of influence, lobbying, local Democracy Champions, Citizens’ Briefings, Democracy Hubs, Citizenship Schools, a revised Duty to Promote Democracy, Citizens’ Policy Forums and practical political education at all levels.

We aim to meet with each of the three main parties. Before the 2010 elections we wrote to all party leaders and candidates (to which David Cameron, Caroline Lucas and several hundred candidates replied). We also met Oliver Letwin, Frances Maude, Nick Hurd and John Hayes from the Shadow ministerial team.

Teaching and learning practical politics: what’s next?

The last seminar in our series on the case for teaching campaigning, is on 5 June at the Institute of Education Room 802 with:

Dr Anita Howarth, Journalism Department, University of Brunel, formerly Kingston University MSC in Political Communication, Advocacy and Campaigning;

Harmit Kambo, Learning & Development Manager, Sheila McKechnie Foundation .

These stimulating events are run with the International Centre for Education & Democratic Citizenship (ICEDC) at the Institute. Please book in advance here .

Community Campaigning in National Campaigning Organisations

The Right Ethos senior campaigners’ event offers two talks followed by networking over wine and nibbles, with:

Jane Harris, Managing Director of Campaigns and Engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability on “Ensuring consistency or flexing to the local context”: What’s the best way to keep policy consistent across different local areas or across the different nations in the UK without losing the ‘local’ touch?

Neil Kingsnorth, Head of Activism at Friends of the Earth on “The future of community campaigning”: How do we support and organise communities to campaign in ways that are relevant, resonant and sustainable?

This free event is limited to Directors, Head of Departments or Managers by invitation: please apply to .

4.30 – 6.30 pm Tuesday 3rd June – Islington Town Hall, London N1.

Commons Select Committee in voter engagement

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee wants to know why people don’t get involved in formal politics and what to do about. The deadline for written evidence is 27 June 2014. For details go here .

Tweet about this inquiry: #voterengagement .

Our political system is no longer fit for purpose and needs fixing fast. Parliamentarians and parties could do a lot more make politics accessible, but we also need local democracy champions and political education: see my blog here .

Master class on securing election manifesto commitments

This session will look at strategies to get election manifesto commitments. It will be led by Ed Matthew, coordinator of the Energy Bill Revolution to end fuel poverty and reduce UK carbon emissions. Ed will draw on his campaign experience to show the key elements of a successful charity campaign to influence election manifestos, including how to build powerful alliances and successful communications strategy. Ed will also discuss where the different political parties are on the road to the 2015 election and identify some of the key politicians who will influence the manifestos.

Date and time: Tuesday 15th July, 2.00 – 5.00pm (Registration from 1.45pm)

Venue: Forster Communications, 49 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU

Presenter: Ed Matthew, Founder & Director of Transform UK

To register click here

Lobbying (“gagging”) Act 2014: the fight goes on

This law controlling political action by non-party organisations is the opposite of what government should do. Organisations which spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on ‘regulated campaign activities’ after 19 September this year must register with the Electoral Commission when as they exceed this: see their guidance here and sign up for updates here.  The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement’s briefing sets out the key features of the Lobbying Act with an FAQs section.

A report on The Politics of Charities by nfpSynergy showed that 78% of Conservative MPs said charities ‘being political’ was a negative thing, 23% of Labour MPs and 38% of Lib Dems felt the same way. A survey published on 29 April showed that 50% of the public think charities should face no restrictions on campaigning only 15% believe they should be restricted, compared to 55% for wealthy individuals and 62% for tobacco industry. A third (35%) believed trade unions should face restrictions.

The press could help charities beat the Gagging Act by producing an independent campaign magazine supplement, since the Lobby Act does not cover the press, which is free to campaign on whatever it likes: see my blog.

The Act did not deal with in-house corporate lobbying so the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency is running a petition to stop secret corporate lobbying to regulate the UK’s £2 billion commercial lobbying industry.

Labour has made a commitment  to repeal the Act and appointed Maeve Sherlock to lead a consultation on it. Baroness Sherlock is a former Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, the National Council for One Parent Families, and President of the National Union of Students.

Unlock Democracy Magna Carta 800the anniversary project

Unlock Democracy have got funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organise local events about the Magna Carta and what we need to protect our rights and freedoms in future. Over 3,500 people took part in a survey and over 1,000 people interested in attending the events.

See the Magna Carta Trust for other activities: sign up for their newsletter here.

Introduction to campaigning workshop

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation runs one-day campaign workshops throughout the UK to equip people with the skills to bring about change at a local or national level, supported by the Tudor Trust.

The next ‘Introduction to Campaigning’ workshop is in London on Thursday 17th July, facilitated by Harmit Kambo. Participants will already be involved at a basic level or just about to get started – whether you are challenging local authority social care changes or protesting about climate change – if you want information and advice about the next steps, then this campaign workshop is for you.

To find out more visit or contact Harmit Kambo:  020 7697 4042

What should the Big Lottery fund?

Do you think the Big Lottery Fund could do more to support people campaigning for change? What do you think of the Big Lottery Funds’ ideas?

This is a chance to help shape their plans for £4 billion from 2015 to 2021:

  1. Register on the Your Vision Our Voice website
  2. Read their ideas about what they could do
  3. Share your ideas about how the Fund can make the most difference for people in the UK

Comment on other ideas and add to the discussion.

Dream To Screen

If you’re aged 16-25 and have a big idea for a short film, you could win thousands of pounds worth of industry standard equipment, a £2000 production budget and support to make it. Submit an entry form and upload a short (90-second) pitch video on ‘Inspiration’ via before 16th June 2014. It would be good to see some films on the theme of democracy and politics. Supported by Jack Petchey Foundation.

Who Runs This Place?

On 1st May Ayesha Farah of Hampstead School (now at university) and Billy Ridges of Team Video talked about their investigation about power in Britain, an illuminating series of interviews now available as teaching materials.

These are worth watching:

  1. The Investigation in Brief
  2. British Bankers Association – Angela Knight
  3. Richard Lambert (Sir) – Confederation of British Industry
  4. Andrew Tyrie MP on buying influence
  5. Social Mobility

For more about the project go to Who Runs This Place and Facebook: very stimulating learning materials for adults as well as school students.

How can you have a voice in the NHS?

NHS England is running “Design Days” to develop a model for participation and accountability in the HNS: see NHS Citizen System

It aims to create a “participation infrastructure” where you can “hold the Board to account, set the agenda for discussions, and find others interested in the same areas as you – all in an open, transparent and public environment.”

This could be an important, transformational process which makes a difference, or a wonderful woolly balloon shot down by the first confrontation between citizens and consultants, politicians, unions or other citizens.

To take part, find out more at NHS Citizen or go to one of the following events: 29 May 2014 Liverpool Register Here .

19 June 2014 – Cambridge Register Here

24 and 25 July 2014 – Bristol – Register Here

2 and 3 October 2014 – Birmingham

29 and 30 January 2015 – London.    See the report of a recent workshop here. The rewritten vision document can be downloaded here. If you would like paper copies of either please email .

Here is one of graphics from the day, explaining NHS Citizen:

You can see more here.

How to close the democratic deficit in Europe

The European elections will shake up the EU but not solve the democratic deficit. Electoral Reform Society has published 12 ways to close the gap between the EU and people of Britain to tackling Europe’s democratic deficit in Close the Gap.

The UN and the World We Want

The UN is running the world’s biggest consultation to choose Sustainable Development Goals after 2015. Go to MY World to have your say on what the priorities should be. Use twitter with #globalvoters or visit the MY World blog to find out more. Please send My World your stories, photos and videos.

Teaching Citizenship in schools

ACT National Conference and AGM 2014 is on Tuesday 1 July, London for Citizenship teachers and education professionals is an opportunity to celebrate the continued evolution of Citizenship. It will help you prepare to teach the new Citizenship curriculum and bring you up to speed on the latest changes to the subject. Book now.

One day courses on ‘Assessing Citizenship’ on 4 June 2014 in London: For details and to book visit ACT Events Book early as places are limited.

Please pass on this information to your networks, acknowledging Democracy Matters, and let me know what you’re doing.

Best wishes,

Titus Alexander

Democracy Matters

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