The Co-operative Party is rooted in community, enterprise and politics. Our 102-year history working to support the growth of co-operatives has been successful, not least for the UK economy where recently the biggest co-operatives paid more in tax than the likes of eBay, Facebook, Vodafone, Starbucks and E-on combined. But more than that, we believe that those who contribute to the creation of wealth – working people – should share the dividend of that success.
Since 1927, the Co-operative Party has united together with the Labour Party, standing candidates together under the Labour and Co-operative banner, bringing the best of both traditions and ideas as one. We worked hard to secure commitments in the 2019 Labour Party manifesto to expand the number and value of co-operatives across the UK, and to put in place co-operative development agencies to make this ambition a reality.
At a time when many feel that they do not have a stake in the economy or that their efforts are only making a small handful at the top better off, there is an urgent need to offer a new settlement. We were hugely disappointed to lose seats in the recent election and we are keen to kickstart the rebuilding process as soon as possible. Following the election, the number of Labour and Co-operative MPs now stands at 26 – down from a high of 38 in the last parliament.
While it is right to understand why we lost, we must also ensure that we are talking to the country and not just to ourselves. We must recognise that to win going forward we must be true to our movement and speak to working people in cities, towns and rural and coastal communities. All of us are united in our desire to see our hard work provide a decent life for our families, and for the natural ambition of each generation to thrive and go further.
We must also accept that although the gap is now significantly wider, in order to rebuild trust we must look further back and be honest about the growing disconnect. The answer must be in how we build bridges to bring a divided country together, rooted in trust, common values and with a shared stake in the future.
And co-operation must be a key part of that programme. With the forthcoming Labour Party leader and deputy leader contests about to start, we are asking all candidates to sign up to our co-operative commitment with three key pledges:
1) First among equals.
That as a sister party we stand united as equals with a shared commitment to engage and develop collectively, including on the development of policy.
2) No regression.
That the role of the Co-operative Party within the Labour Party and its governance structures are maintained, built upon and strengthened.
And that policy agreements reached – which include the commitment to double the size of the co-operative sector, to secure the right to food, and the establishment of co-operative development agencies – is held.
3) More ambition.
That we build on the unique relationships within and between each party, that we strive to be ambitious in expanding the co-operative economy, and that we go further into community empowerment and civic engagement to ensure that power is genuinely held by the many, and not the few.