Although I’ve been involved with Unlock Democracy for close to five years, this year’s AGM was the first time I’ve actually been to one! I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. A delayed train and pouring rain made things hectic, but I did get to the venue eventually!
The room already had been launched into a presentation on Unlock Magna Carta, the year-long project celebrating the 800th anniversary of one of the UK’s most important documents, and considering a modern equivalent. Project co-ordinator Frances Foley introduced a video of footage from project events held across the country in a wide variety of settings: a prison; a community centre; the Houses of Parliament. The video demonstrated that there is a strong desire from a lot of people for the principles of Magna Carta to be adhered to and improved upon, 800 years on.
The AGM moved on to perhaps the meat and potatoes of the day: the motions! Over a dozen motions were discussed. The first of these were vitally important to the future of Unlock Democracy as they concerned the approach to Council elections: as an organisation concerned with a better democracy, UD had to make sure that their future council elections are fair and open across the country. Other motions called for the organisation to adopt strong positions on the devolution process, local government and electoral reform. There were also motions which asked UD to work on their own internal structure- this included mine, asking for the Council to provide the membership with regular updates on their work: I’m pleased to say it went through!
The discussions around the motions were very informative, with insightful contributions all round. Although some motions enjoyed considerable debate around different interpretations, there wasn’t a serious falling out amongst the attendees. The good vibes continued into the next part of the day, which saw the room broken up into four groups to discuss strategies for campaigning on various issues. Our ideas were written on slips of paper and tied to makeshift ‘Ideas Trees’- it’ll be interesting to see how our contributions to UD’s strategy turn out in practice.
The day concluded with a talk by Alex Runswick, the director of Unlock Democracy. She highlighted the many challenges to our democracy, such as the possibility of millions of people being removed from the electoral register under rushed through Individual Voter Registration plans. The AGM demonstrated that there is a huge opportunity for Unlock Democracy and its members to influence the direction of our democracy- and will continue to be over the course of the next Parliament.