The election result showed the public’s appetite for change – the Co-Op party can help Labour back to government

23rd June, 2017 5:19 pm

As we all continue to analyse and understand the result of the general election as well as the response to some of the other events that have shaken our country over the last few weeks, what is clear is that there is an appetite for change.

The Co-operative Party and the wider co-operative movement stand ready to be a part of that change as we have done for more than a century. Co-operation is founded on the notion that things are better when people come together to work in their mutual interest and in the interest of the wider community. Through our values of self-help, self-responsibility, equality, solidarity and concern for community we have a vision of different kind of country in a fairer world.

The annual state the co-operative economy report, published by Co-operatives UK this week, shows that the co-operative sector is contributing £36bn to UK GDP. Co-operatives continue to work across a broad range of areas from agriculture and housing, to financial services and leisure. But we know this is still the tip of the iceberg. In other countries, the co-operative sector is significantly larger and as such is in an even stronger position to challenge the market dominance of privately owned companies; raising the bar on ethical and sustainable business and contributing more back into the pockets of members and communities.

New polling from YouGov also contained in the Co-ops UK report shows that 67 per cent of people think the economy is ‘out of control’ and a similar proportion of people feel they cannot influence their workplace or community. As a nation, we feel out of power and unable to shape the things that affect our everyday lives.

In its manifesto at the General Election Labour pledged to work to double the size of the co-operative sector – arguably the most significant commitment made to the co-operative movement by any potential Party of government over the last century. What is particularly radical about this proposal is not the scale of the ambition, but the acknowledgment that an economy more democratically owned, by the many not the few, would be a fairer economy with ordinary people – workers and consumers – in the driving seat and rightly reaping the rewards

This week, 38 Labour & Co-operative MPs take their seats on the green benches of the House of Commons for the Queens speech. A record number, achieved in the year the Co-operative Party celebrates its centenary. The 28 Co-operative MPs from the last Parliament, all safely re-elected, are joined by 10 new faces. Amongst them they bring a wealth of knowledge of the co-operative movement; gained working for co-operatives, championing co-operation from local government to the EU; and supporting new co-operatives to grow and develop. It is particularly heartening that this increased strength is matched by increased opportunity.

The Co-operative Party, our members and elected representatives, will be working alongside our partners in the Labour Party and the labour movement to build the case for this change. Where possible we will organise to make change happen in communities from the bottom up – just as we will be doing with our army of Co-operative Councillors this weekend at our local government conference, aptly titled ‘Not Waiting For Whitehall’. And when the time comes, we will be ready to play our part in delivering this bold vision in government.

Claire McCarthy is the general secretary of Labour’s sister party, the Co-Operative party

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