Standing by the values of the co-operative movement

A joint letter to the Guardian

Watching the agonies of the Co-operative Group has been hard for those us who want to see fundamental change in the way our economy and wider society is run, and believe the co-operative movement has a lot of the answers (Report, 21 April). For almost 100 years the labour movement and co-operative movement have worked together through our respective political parties to achieve progressive social change. The electoral agreement signed by the Labour party and the Co-operative party in 1927 has ensured the co-operative movement has a strong voice in parliament and within the Labour family.

As the leaders of other organisations in that family we value the Co-op party’s work in shaping progressive policy, achieving historic advances on consumer and environmental legislation and, more recently, creating the legal framework which has supported the rapid growth of co-ops in the last 10 years. It has been a distinctive voice on the left in favour of an economy that shares the fruits of success more fairly, a bulwark against unaccountable concentrations of power in broken markets like energy and transport, and a passionate advocate for more people power in our public services.

We enthusiastically welcome the determination of the Co-op Group’s new management to return the group to commercial health. At the same time, the Co-op’s member-owners should resist any moves to break their century-long partnership with the Co-operative party. Having the right values and beliefs is necessary but not sufficient. To change Britain, the co-operative movement needs political influence – a seat at the table when decisions are being made. The Co-operative party has delivered that and it will be to the detriment of us all if it came to an end. The Co-operative group’s roots were in a mass-membership movement dedicated to fighting exploitation and profiteering, a movement as relevant now as it ever was. We hope its 8 million members today will defend their political partnership with the Co-op party. They can add their names to the growing number of members who want the Co-op to stay true to its founding purpose at www.keepit.coop.

————

Richard Angell Director, Progress
Andy Harrop General secretary, Fabian Society
Neal Lawson Chair, Compass
Maurice Glasman Founder, Blue Labour
Michael McTernan Acting director, Policy Network
Jamie Glackin Chair, Scottish Labour party
Cllr Jim McMahon Leader, LGA Labour group
Cllr Simon Henig Chair, Association of Labour Councillors
Helen Gibson Management committee, Labour Women’s Network
Finn McGoldric National chair, Labour Students
Alex Adranghi Chair, Young Fabians (personal capacity)
Melanie Smallman Chair, Socialist Environment Resource Association
Phil McCauley Acting chief executive, Movement for Change
Ivana Bartoletti Chair, Fabian Women’s Network
Giampi Alhadeff Chair, Labour Movement for Europe
Matthew Doyle Chair, Labour party Irish society
David Offenbach Chair, Labour Finance and Industry group
Mark Ferguson Editor, LabourList
Patrick Diamond Lecturer in public policy, Queen Mary, University of London
Morgan McSweeney Head of the Labour group office, Local Government Association
Andrew Burns Leader, Edinburgh city council

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