Posts in News

Electoral Commission submit to the CSPL

05/08/2020 Posted by News, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Electoral Commission submit to the CSPL”

This week the Electoral Commission published their submission to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s (CSPL) review of electoral regulation. You can read a summary and the full submission here.

The CSPL’s inquiry is looking specifically at the regulation of electoral finance and the role – strengths and weaknesses – of the Electoral Commission. It was a similar review by the CSPL that led to the creation of the Electoral Commission and our current regulatory framework in 2000. 

This is a very important and hopeful moment!

Fair Vote UK are delighted to announce that the Electoral Commission’s submission has independently echoed many of the recommendations that we’ve been campaigning for over the last few years.

The Electoral Commission rightly identified transparency, proportionality and enforceability as the principles that should govern the UK’s regulatory regime.

Current weaknesses were identified as: 

  • A lack of transparency (especially in the digital sphere); 
  • A legal/prosecutorial framework that is disjointed, confusing and in need of rationalisation;
  • Weak deterrence capabilities.

 

These all echo points made in our report: Defending our Democracy in the Digital Age, published by Fair Vote UK in January.

Their submission rightly reminded us that though the Electoral Commission is a respected and world renowned election regulator, it needs an updated mandate and the necessary resources to be able to do their job in an election landscape that has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. 

In short, it needs more teeth. With a few tweaks this is very achievable!

Their submission expressed a desire to be able to work faster, audit non-political organisations (such as tech companies), work more closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office & police and have their deterrence capabilities boosted (with the upper limit of fines lifted from £20,000 to £500,000). Fair Vote UK made similar recommendations in January and we re-indorse them again now. Reforms along these lines would bring the Electoral Commission’s powers in sync with similarly sized UK regulators. 

We also welcome the announcement that the Electoral Commission plans to build “in house” prosecutorial functions. This reform would simplify the currently incoherent system, ease the burden on police/public prosecutors and allow the Electoral Commission to utilise their expertise and specific focus.

Fair Vote UK will be submitting our own evidence to the inquiry soon, as well as a joint submission with Open Rights Group specifically focussed on the important but overlooked question of valuing datasets. We will again be reiterating many of the points raised by the Electoral Commission.

These are promising times!

A 21st Century Crisis

31/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “A 21st Century Crisis”

It’s been quite a week:

  • Nancy Pelosi & leading Democrats claim to see evidence that “foreign powers” are attempting to interfere with the workings of Congress and the upcoming US election;
  • Oh wait, Trump wants to delay that election because of the non-existent problem of mail fraud?
  • Antitrust hearings take the big tech giants to task for their monopolistic models;
  • Over here our own Russia Report tells us that almost nothing has been done about Russian interference into UK democracy;
  • And users are forced to boycott Twitter over their unwillingness to remove overtly antisemitic tweets posted by a celebrity musician;
  • UK ministers applaud the boycott from the sidelines, seemingly forgetting the fact they are the ones that could mandate Twitter to do something about it.

 

All in a week’s work. For concerned citizens it is overwhelming. Too much information to take in and process. We used to rely on editors to do that job for us… 

The world’s anti-democratic malefactors may not have designed this state of affairs but it certainly suits their agenda.

We are used to the 20th century model of democratic death: the army takes over, elections are suspended and protest is forbidden. 

But democracies in the 21st century won’t die the same way. Instead the facade of democracy will continue – elections will carry on, our leaders will be “politicians” – but the core will have been hollowed out.

This is not speculation. It has already happened. Look at Poland, where Andrzej Duda was just narrowly re-elected. Look at Russia. Look at Hungary. Look at Turkey. Democracy is fragile.

We at Fair Vote UK say enough is enough. We will not be next. And we’re up for the fight.

It is not too late. 

The Russia Report & A Dangerous Culture of Inaction

21/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “The Russia Report & A Dangerous Culture of Inaction”

Today the long anticipated publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s ‘Russia Report’ has revealed a dangerous culture of inaction at the top of the British state.

Despite mounting evidence of Russian interference in the UK’s democratic process over half a decade (including during the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, the EU referendum of 2016 and the general election of 2017), our Government has never conducted risk assessments of Russian-based or any foreign interference threat after the above mentioned events.

Stewart Hosie MP, a member of the Committee, was particularly critical of successive UK Governments at the launch of the report, accusing ministers of ‘actively avoiding’ this issue.

The wide-ranging report concluded that Moscow makes a concerted effort to disrupt UK democracy, with online disinformation campaigns a central part of the strategy. It is unclear at our end which organisation is responsible for dealing with this threat. 

The report also called for social media companies to do more to remove ‘covert hostile state material’ from their platforms and encouraged the UK Government to name and shame those that do not. It also highlighted the fact the Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies currently lack the ‘weight and access’ to tackle this problem. 

The uncomfortable and oft-underreported fact that the UK – and London in particular – has become a hotbed of Russian money laundering and corruption was also a headline conclusion of the report.

It is shocking that, in the face of such all-encompassing problems, our Government has done next to nothing about the Russian challenge.

It is indicative of a larger threat to our democracy: inaction driven by a perceived short-term benefit.

Under-resourcing and under-valuing of the institutions central to our democracy is now an endemic problem in this country. We have to start protecting and emboldening our democratic institutions. They are not invulnerable. They will wither on the vine if not continuously supported.

Fair Vote UK have been focussed on this problem for years. Our report – Defending Our Democracy in the Digital Age – called for many of the reforms that the ISC’s Inquiry have now re-highlighted.

Next week Fair Vote UK will be submitting to yet another inquiry being conducted by the influential Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Really, another inquiry? After half a decade since major flaws in our electoral system were most recently exposed it seems pretty clear we’ve thoroughly inquired.

We need our elected representatives to do something about it. Now is the time to take action.

Fair Vote UK Submits Evidence to Procedure Committee Inquiry

15/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Fair Vote UK Submits Evidence to Procedure Committee Inquiry”

Today Fair Vote UK submitted evidence to the Procedure Committee’s inquiry into parliamentary procedure under coronavirus restrictions.

This is an opportunity for positive, lasting change.

The Committee is monitoring and evaluating the temporary practices introduced to the House of Commons in April as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair Vote UK wanted to use the opportunity to detail the findings of our recent consultation and the report – Democracy in the Age of Pandemic – that grew out of it.

Our submission to the Committee was clear: The current crisis has afforded Parliament the chance to reform and modernise. 

As our report made clear, some of the coronavirus innovations (remote voting, digitisation) should be introduced full-time. Recent attempts by the Government to cancel this progress are irresponsible and should be reversed. A more flexible Parliament is more democratic and better prepared for future disruptions. 

However, the reforms could have – and still should – go further. Fair Vote UK have called for the establishment of a Coronavirus-focussed Select Committee (cross party, opposition led and publicly viewable online) to increase scrutiny of the Government. This will be very important in the coming months as the UK eases out of lockdown, contends with the social and economic fallout of the crisis and navigates possible re-intensification of the pandemic.

These reforms should also be enshrined in a crisis-response protocol that can allow Parliament to move forward into an uncertain 21st Century confident and prepared.

Everyone is currently talking about what the post-coronavirus world will look like. Most are determined to make sure we build back better. Our democratic institutions should not be exempt from this conversation.

Let’s create a modern, robust Parliament! If we get it right, it could be one of the inadvertent positives of this awful crisis.

Thank You!

08/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Thank You!”

We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone that donated to Fair Vote UK in our recent drive.

Thanks to all of you, we hit our target for this campaign!

This will help us continue our vital work in the coming months. All of your generosity is hugely appreciated.

For the rest of 2020 (and beyond!) we will keep pressing regulators and lawmakers across the country for sensible democratic reform.

Our priorities:

  • Pushing forward with getting the 20 recommendations from our report Defending our Democracy in the Digital Age cemented in law;
  • Ensuring our democracy is invested in and made COVID-proof. Elections and parliamentary functioning cannot be suspended again;
  • Building a resource and platform that helps explain – in an easily accessible way – why the issue of data and democracy is so important to tackle.

 

Privacy International and the Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Select Committee have both just released reports that independently echo Fair Vote UK’s recommendations. And the Committee on Standards in Public Life are currently conducting an inquiry into these questions which we have been invited to contribute to.

Momentum for sensible reform is building but we cannot take our foot off the pedal.

The fight for our democracy goes on and it is a fight made possible by you, so thank you.

Two Pandemics

06/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Two Pandemics”

Can you help Fair Vote UK fight for our democracy by making sure we hit our fundraising target?

We’re only halfway through 2020 but it has already been an extraordinary year. We are in the midst of two acute crises.

The obvious one is Covid-19. The pandemic poses a unique threat to society, the economy and our democracy. The other crisis – more slow burning, less obvious – is the gradual erosion, through a combination of malignancy and neglect, of our democratic institutions and conventions.

With the American election, Brexit negotiations and the Covid-19 fallout looming, these crises could get much worse in the second half of 2020.

They must be resisted.

It is Fair Vote UK’s mission to do just that but we couldn’t do it without the support of you.

Please donate £25 or whatever you can to Fair Vote UK today and help us keep up the fight for our democracy.

We’re Demystifying Data & Democracy. Can You Help?

02/07/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “We’re Demystifying Data & Democracy. Can You Help?”

The fight for our democracy can be overwhelming at times.

Not only do the malignant forces of this world seem to be on the rise, the issues we are fighting about – the misuse and abuse of data, misinformation campaigns, surveillance capitalism – can be daunting topics to wrap your head around.

This suits the people and organisations that are undermining our democracy just fine. As far as they are concerned, the less citizens know about these problems the better.

But it needn’t be like this.

Everyday the case for protecting our democracy in the digital age grows stronger and reaches wider audiences. 

The current #BoycottFacebook campaign, started by a civil rights coalition headed by the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, is an excellent example of this.

Lots of brilliant work has been done in this field but much of it remains dense or overly academic.

Over the summer Fair Vote UK will be working on a resource that demystifies these issues in an accessible, short and punchy way, designed with the layperson in mind.

We want this to be a resource that can reach the widest possible audience.

But we couldn’t do it without you.

Can you chip in £25 or whatever you can today to ensure we can keep making the fight for our democracy?

We’re a near totally volunteer team and rely on the generosity of supporters to do much of our work. Generosity for which we are eternally grateful.

Thank you.

Can You Help Fair Vote UK Defend Our Democracy?

25/06/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Can You Help Fair Vote UK Defend Our Democracy?”

Beyond our democracy reform work, we have worked to be at the forefront of tackling new threats as they arise. The most obvious example is the impact of Covid-19 on democracy. As of writing more than 60 elections around the world have been postponed or cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Seeing how Covid-19 threatened to undermine the practices and institutions of democracy itself, we responded by launching a consultation that became the report Democracy in the Age of Pandemic published last week.

Its recommendations – which can be summarised as high-tech Parliament, low-tech elections – are designed to prepare our democracy for debilitating crises of this sort.

We have taken the report to MPs and will be submitting its recommendations to the Procedure Committee’s inquiry into Parliament’s temporary (and currently threatened) Covid-19 practices.

There has been some talk of suspending next year’s Senedd elections because of the pandemic.

This is unacceptable in a mature democracy.

This work isn’t easy or straightforward but it’s essential, which is why we need to ask our supporters like you to chip in and ensure we can keep the pressure on to make sure no more elections are postponed.

We know times are tough right now and the civil society space is no different. Can you chip in £20 or whatever you can today to ensure we can keep fighting?

We’re a near totally volunteer team and we couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you,

The Fair Vote UK Team.

P.S. Can you donate £20 or whatever you can today to ensure we can fight to make sure no more elections are postponed?

2020 So Far

17/06/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “2020 So Far”

Here at the halfway point of an extraordinary year, we wanted to take stock and update all our supporters on the progress of Fair Vote UK’s 2020 so far.

While for many it has felt like a year to be “cancelled,” we are feeling quite the opposite. The impact of Covid-19 and the important, powerful Black Lives Matter protests suggest 2020 could be a consequential year for progressive change.

For us, the year started with the publication of our landmark reportDefending our Democracy in the Digital Age – in January.

The result of a major inquiry in 2019 that drew evidence from MPs, regulators, peers and campaigners, the report and its 20 recommendations provide the most comprehensive answer yet to the concerns around election safeguarding in the UK.

If 2019 had been a year of consolidation and preparation, 2020 was to be a year of action and implementation. 

Covid-19 threatened to undermine this plan but we have taken our campaign online, holding productive virtual meetings with lawmakers and campaigners from across the UK. 

With the digitisation of our lives accelerating as a result of the current crisis, the need to modernise and strengthen our electoral law has become even greater.  

Our conversations have shown that in every UK country and in every UK political party, there is the will for sensible reform. We cannot, however, risk complacency and must seize this moment to enshrine our recommendations in law.

The hard work of turning recommendations into law is being funded in part by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, from whom we were privileged to have received a grant.

With a US Presidential election in November already marred in controversy and parts of the UK set to go to the polls next May, these issues remain as urgent as ever and we’ll keep fighting to defend our democracy.

‘Democracy in the Age of Pandemic’: New Report Launched

09/06/2020 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “‘Democracy in the Age of Pandemic’: New Report Launched”

Fair Vote UK is proud to announce the publication of our report ‘Democracy in the Age of Pandemic’.

The report – born out of our April 2020 consultation – analyses and tackles the threat posed to democracy by Covid-19.

Two central functions of our democracy have been imperilled by this crisis: Governments and Parliaments functioning and Elections taking place. ‘Democracy in the Age of Pandemic’ addresses both of these in turn and outlines solutions.

This country must be better prepared for future disruptions of this sort, whether they be re-intensifications of Covid-19 or similarly debilitating crises.

You can download the report and accompanying appendices, as two separate documents, here:

REPORT – Democracy in the Age of Pandemic – Fair Vote UK – June 2020

APPENDICES – Democracy in the Age of Pandemic – Fair Vote UK Report June 2020