Volunteer observers at the UK election.

What I was doing in London in the days before the UK General Election.
Delighted to join the briefing for some of the SDAI international & British election observers, volunteer professional independent observers for the UK General Election. This Canadian based NGO, Sustainable Development Assistance International, has US, Canadian and British directors. SDAI is made up of experienced international election observers. Impromptu venue the Sussex Arms, near Paddington, looked after us well. Even if the back room looked like the rather glitzy nightclub type function rooms of Ukrainian bars or model tv playing breakfast rooms often used for briefings in other countries where we work.
Informative presentations on the election by Dr Frands Pedersen of the University of Westminster (we were delighted three of his year 3 students joined us for the briefing); Alfred Dubs, Lord Dubs, an honour & pleasure to meet the inspirational campaigner Alf Dubs who gave up an hour of his very busy schedule campaigning and clearly enjoyed communicating and informing. Plus Paul Wesson, Anthony Robinson, Chris Cuninghame, Megan McKenzie, Paul Simon & our coordinator, Karen Reinhardt. Along with excellent clear handbooks, codes and guidance by the UK Electoral Commission. As I agreed with my friend Paul Salter it was worth coming to London just to hear Lord Dubs, but also to see professional friends & new colleagues. A principled campaigner in support of refugees, like Liverpool’s own Eleanor Rathbone was in the 1930s and 1940s, Dubs is a very engaging, fair, speaker and pleasure to listen to. A real twinkle in his eye despite all the serious matters to deal with.

SDAI: https://www.sdai-aidd.ca/ (SDAI-AIDD in English & French Canadian)
A year ago, when I wrote about this subject on my website and in fairly critical comments, there were 250 observers registered with the Electoral Commission, including from Government departments, some dozens of international ones (including a Ukrainian NGO I hadn’t then heard of but did since), individuals, academics, Stowe school reps, and the largest UK group, Democracy Volunteers. Now there are over 1100 on the Commission’s register of accredited observers. So more of a chance, albeit a slight one, that election staff, party workers and volunteers, and members of the public might see people engaged in election observation. Of course with professional international missions a focus is on long term observation, not only polling day, but it is still good to have people taking the trouble to look out for democratic standards.
Postscript, after the election. 31 December. Catching up having returned from observing the election in Uzbekistan. A few days earlier, on our UK E-Day I accompanied a US observer from Canadian based civil society organisation, SDAI-AIDD to observe at polling stations in Liverpool & Sefton & the Liverpool counts. While I’m critical of the UK electoral system I’m happy to say that all the polling station staff at 15 polling stations Sam Burgess, of California, & I visited were friendly, cooperative and professional. And the counts were well run. Electoral services at Sefton Council (Sefton MBC) & Liverpool City Council did a great job.

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