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 generous:

Candidates may not produce any further promotional materials [in addition to the ballot mailing manifesto] … 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 that ballot mailing manifesto, it can only by 300 words. Not even an artworked piece of A5. Other than that: sssssh!

Imagine if the government were to propose such a stringent set of campaign restrictions for public elections. Would Unlock Democracy say, “You know what, that’s a darn good idea”? I hope not – but just as campaigning is healthy in public elections because it allows voters to make better informed choices, so it is too in internal  contests.

It does at least make my voting in the Council elections easy when the ballots come round. If you’re in favour of these rules, you won’t be getting my vote.

For another reaction to these election rules see Mark Valladares: Throwing away the key … how not to run an internal election.

3 responses to “A lack of democracy at Unlock Democracy”

  1. Unlock Democracy’s internal election regulations are decided by our members. The rules are designed to provide a level playing field and to prevent wealthier candidates from having too great an advantage. The current rules were set before Facebook and Twitter were in widespread use.

    Any member concerned about these rules could have submitted a standing order amendment to our AGM. No-one did so. We are keen to encourage as many members as possible to stand for election. For more details see our website: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/elections.

    • Fair comment from both Unlock Democracy and Mark Pack. What I would say though, is that it isn't just in the remit of members to submit standing order amendments, but also core personnel at Unlock Democracy to implement a continuous process improvement.

      One of those could have been to actually ask whether the rules are still relevant in these times and submit a change to be voted on at the AGM. Otherwise Unlock Democracy is almost in the same state as our Parliament, where change can only be instigated from outside as the inside is happy (or there is a perceptiion that they are happy) with the status quo.

    • Thanks for adding that information. I'll certainly look out for the AGM too; it's always useful to know about all the different possible routes to influencing a decision.

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