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Unlock Democracy is a British pressure group, based in Gray's Inn Road, in London. The organisation campaigns for a more participatory democracy in Britain, founded upon a written constitution. Unlock Democracy works to promote democratic reform across the political spectrum and is not aligned with any political party. The organisation's activities include producing a range of publications, lobbying politicians and political parties and working on projects to promote greater public involvement in politics, at both local and national levels.
Unlock Democracy is governed by an annually elected membership council and from that a management board. It is funded from three main sources: grant income for specific projects from various foundations and trusts, subscriptions and donations from its members and supporters, and income from its subsidiary company Rodell Properties Ltd.
The founding Director was Peter Facey. He was Director of Unlock Democracy’s predecessor organisation the New Politics Network in 2001 and latter also becoming Director of Charter 88. He was responsible for the merger of the two organisations in 2007. He was succeeded as Director in 2013 by long-time deputy Director Alexandra Runswick.
In 2003, 15 years after the formation of Charter 88, the organisation was experiencing a very turbulent period and this led to great organisational changes. A loss of intellectual contribution, the organisation's increasing financial woes and a period of resignations and redundancies created a near crisis situation in late 2003. In February 2005, Charter 88 and the New Politics Network (NPN) set up a joint working relationship to make the most of their resources in the establishment of the Elect the Lords campaign. The two organisations decided to formalise their working relationship in 2006, and Unlock Democracy was founded in 2007.
Members of Charter 88 (a pressure group advocating a charter of connected constitutional changes, including a written constitution, electoral reform, freedom of information, etc.) and NPN (the organisation established after the winding up of the think tank Democratic Left, which was itself the legal successor of the Communist Party of Great Britain) voted to merge the two organisations. NPN Director Nina Temple, among others, attempted to steer the organisation back towards its democratic socialist roots at the 2003 AGM. The movement and subsequent campaigning of the organisation could be seen as remaining truer to its Charter 88 roots than those of the NPN. The NPN strapline, however, "connecting people and politics", was retained.
The merger was completed in November 2007.
Unlock Democracy's primary goal is the setting in place of a democratic participative process resulting in a written constitution. That constitution should explicitly set out the separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. It should also explicitly determine the divisions and limitations of powers between central and local government within the UK.
Unlock Democracy has engaged with the Ministry of Justice Governance of Britain programme. It attends party conferences and runs external events such as People and Politics Day. It continues to work with and support other organisations such as Local Works on the Sustainable Communities Act. Lastly, it continues its work on democratic reform, including the Elect the Lords campaign, and the campaign for a review of the UK general election electoral system. The current Director, Alex Runswick, sits as a trustee on The Reform Foundation board and allows their offices to be used to host meetings.
- Unlock Democracy Website - History http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/pages/a-short-history
- Unlock Democracy Website - Purpose http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/pages/purpose-and-constitution
- Official website
- Parties 'near critical condition' BBC News article about an Unlock Democracy survey