Tag Archives: unlock democracy

Opinion: Why the Liberal Democrats must put reform first

It was rather warm for February 17th. I was lost looking around the many exits of St James’ Park tube station. I was after Dr. Ken Ritchie, the former CEO of the Electoral Reform Society. Graham Smith, the CEO of Republic had given him my details originally to help The Reform Foundation (which he chairs) get a website. This escalated quickly when a few weeks later I found myself voted in as a trustee during a meeting of the other trustees.

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The Independent View: Transparency in Government

This week the Liberal Democrats face a test of their commitment to transparency in government when the House of Lords considers Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. Bizarrely for a Bill with transparency in the title, it will provide the public with less information than we already have under the discredited system of self-regulation.

Last week the BMJ published details of the way the drinks industry had lobbied government to drop the commitment to minimum alcohol pricing including 130 meetings, few of which were in the public domain. This is not about …

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The Independent View: It’s not alarmist to raise concerns about government plans for non-party campaigning

The government ministers leading on the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill need to make their minds up. Last week, the newspapers were briefed that the government was “open to changes” to the bill following severe criticism from senior charities. This week, Tom Brake and Chloe Smith are lining up to attack 38 Degrees for “scaremongering” over the bill. So what is the truth?

Unlock Democracy has campaigned for several years now for the introduction of a statutory lobbying register and so has taken a keen interest in this bill. Our

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

Registers and recall: I support them both. But they’re not going to clean up our democracy

The weekend’s revelations that two Labour peers and an Ulster Unionist were filmed offering to lobby ministers for cash, following hot on the heels of Tory MP Patrick Mercer’s resignation of the Tory whip over similar allegations, has re-ignited the question of how to clean up Parliament.

Two proposals are being pushed, both of them originally pledged in the Coalition Agreement.

Register of lobbyists

First, there’s a register of lobbyists, intended to bring greater transparency to the way in which professional lobbyists seek to influence government decisions. This is one of Unlock Democracy’s top campaigns:

If we don’t know

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Giving power to local communities – much too important to be left to Nick Clegg or Parliament

Nick Clegg in Liverpool. Photo credit: Alex FolkesLike my LDV colleague, Paul Walter, it was good to hear Nick Clegg’s announcement that he intends to give more economic powers to up to 20 cities and major towns. After all, if there’s one thing that unites Lib Dems it’s the belief in devolving power to the most local level possible.

And yet there is a grumble about the scheme that nags me: why is it that local government is having to bid to central government for “the right to decide how skills and transport funding is spent

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Are you a member of Unlock Democracy? Please help improve it

In the spring and summer I blogged about how underwhelmed I was by the exceptionally tight campaigning restrictions for Unlock Democracy’s internal elections which blocked contact between candidates and voters (the irony given the organisation’s name!), leaving just a fairly uninformative booklet to guide my votes:

Now having the ballot mailing for the council and for the related limited company in front of me, things are even worse. Why? Because I’m left with almost no decent information on which to decide how to cast my vote. Sure, I’ve got a

Posted in Op-eds | 2 Comments

“14 out of 15 trades unions fail the transparency test”

News reaches the Voice from Unlock Democracy, who have been carrying out investigations into the practices of the 15 unions currently affiliated to the Labour party. The research shows that 14 out of 15 trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party fail to explain to their prospective new members about affiliation and inform them that they have a legal right to opt out on their membership forms and website.

The top lines from the research are as follows:

  • Just 1 union (UNISON) mentions affiliating to the Labour Party.
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Lords reform, Labour and the three key tests

Ed Miliband’s decision to insist on Labour backing House of Lords reform at the Second Reading vote in the House of Commons is an important and welcome one. That it was opposed by senior Labour figures such as David Blunkett probably reinforces the views of many Liberal Democrats of Blunkett and co, but it should also remind us that Miliband’s decision and leadership on this is not trivial. It is something House of Lords reformers in all parties should welcome.

More cynical people may wonder if Labour support on the Second Reading will be a distraction tactic from them trying to sink Lords reform at a later date, whether with or without Miliband’s implicit backing. There are three main opportunities for that.

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Unlock Democracy: the elections are worse than I feared

Back in March I wrote about my concerns over the elections rules for Unlock Democracy’s internal elections:

Good news – supporters are being asked to submit nominations for its governing council. Bad news – the highly restrictive campaigning rules that make even the old Liberal Democrat internal election rules seem rather generous:

“Candidates may not produce any further promotional materials … No candidate may pro-actively campaign for election online, or allow anyone else to campaign on their behalf … The Returning Officer may disqualify any candidate who they deem to have made a public statement to promote their candidacy.”

As for

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Lords Reform – if evidence were needed…

Yesterday, Unlock Democracy published new research confirming that a majority of the public support government plans to introduce elections to the House of Lords. A poll conducted by YouGov has found that:

    69% support a half, majority or wholly elected second chamber. The most popular response was for a fully elected second chamber (33%). Just 5% support a wholly appointed second chamber (don’t know: 22%).
    45% believe members of the House of Lords should not be allowed to block reform; 32% felt they should (don’t know: 17%).
    48% supported experts being invited to participate in legislation on an ad hoc basis, rather

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged | 5 Comments

A lack of democracy at Unlock Democracy

The pressure group Unlock Democracy is generally pretty good at understanding that having a healthy democracy is more than simply about the narrow confines of casting and counting votes. Healthy democracy involves meaningful debate and choice between a range of views.

That makes the latest mailing I have received from them all the most disappointing. Good news – supporters are being asked to submit nominations for its governing council. Bad news – the highly restrictive campaigning rules that make even the old Liberal Democrat internal election rules seem rather …

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What part of Yes do you not understand?

We don’t normally republish lengthy pieces from other people’s blogs, but in the case of James Graham’s review of Don’t Take No For An Answer by Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie, which doubles up as a detailed post-mortem on the AV referendum, we’re happy to throw those rules out of the window because of both the post’s excellence and the importance of the issues to future campaigning and hopes for electoral reform.

So here is a slightly revised version of the post which first appeared on James’s blogYou can also read Mark Pack’s (much shorter!) review of Don’t

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Have you taken part in the House of Lords reform consultation yet?

Aside from the debate at Liberal Democrat conference on Lords reform, there’s another important opportunity to have your say on Lords reform at the moment. The official public consultation from the Joint Committee of the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill runs until 12 October and Unlock Democracy have put together a very simple to use website that steps you through responding to the consultation quickly and effectively.

So do make a visit to http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/s/lords-reform-consultation and make sure your views go in before 12 October.

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Independent View: why we should all campaign for full recall

For over six years now I have worked on Parliamentary campaigns such as the Sustainable Communities Act and the Climate Change Act. I have done this as an independent freelance, unaffiliated to any political party and always seeking cross party support.

This experience has given me a deep insight into our system of governance from the Ministers and senior civil servants at the top, whom I meet in Westminster and Whitehall, to communities at the bottom, whom I meet at campaign public meetings that I speak at across the country.

Our democratic system desperately needs reform. People increasingly feel disconnected …

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments

Moving to an elected second chamber – a loss of expertise, or just privilege?

August 2011 is the centenary of the Parliament Act, the supposedly stop gap measure to regulate relations between the two houses of parliament until an elected House of Lords could be created. The fact that we are still fighting for a democratic second chamber means it is all too easy to lose sight of the debates about what we want the second chamber to actually do. Unlock Democracy wants a fully elected second chamber capable of scrutinising and revising legislation as well as delaying it where necessary. It should be a deliberative chamber that builds on the …

Posted in Parliament | Also tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Parties pledges for change under the microscope

A news release tells us:

Unlock Democracy, the UK’s leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms, today unveils its new report which looks at how committed British political parties are to democratic reform.

The report, ‘A Vote for Democracy?‘ looks at the parties’ policies in five key areas: fair, free and honest elections; rights, freedoms and a written constitution; stronger parliament and accountable government; bringing power closer to the people and a culture of informed political interest and responsibility.

Allocating each party a score out of 100, the total scores are:
Liberal Democrats: 81
Green Party: 80.5
SNP: 57
Conservative Party: 48.5
Labour Party: 48
Plaid Cymru: 39.5
UK …

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Unlock Democracy with VOTE MATCH

I was at the Vote Match European Election launch held at Apple’s palatial showroom on Regents Street this past Monday, drawn by the special guest appearance of Stephen Fry. Appearing in a tuxedo and bow tie, he did not disappoint as he opened with an apology for the rest of us being under-dressed for the event.

What I hadn’t expected was to discover that the collective consciousness of the 200 or so guests in the audience, on answering the 30 specimen questions by democratic show of hands, managed to produce a Liberal Democrat voter!

Following the success of Vote Match London …

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged and | 3 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 11th Dec - 2:30am
    James Baillie, Our policy is to “introduce a pilot scheme that involve(s) an unconditional payment of the standard Universal Credit allowance (currently £319 per month...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 11th Dec - 1:01am
    @ Dennis Wake I suppose that is one theory. Another might be that the cost of nurses, doctors and teachers does rise as GDP rises....
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 11th Dec - 12:27am
    @Caron - I bet you enjoyed doing that. :) Parliament would be a less colourful place without the legend that is Jamie Stone. I hope...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 11th Dec - 12:18am
    If I have got this right then these are the seats the MRP model have us losing to the Tories (up to 20%) with the...
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 10th Dec - 11:56pm
    I don't think these debates have had any significant impact on this election. There have been too many, and once it was established that leaders...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 10th Dec - 11:51pm
    @Ross That is exactly what I mean! Now amended.
Tue 7th Jan 2020