Thursday, March 12, 2015

Keep It Co-op (and Save our Political Voice)

I have been a member of the Co-operative Party (which shares values and advances the co-operative agenda by standing joint Parliamentary candidates with the Labour Party) for a number of years but have been a member of the Co-operative Group for even longer.

2 or 3 times a week I shop at my local Co-op and I have a savings account with the Co-op Bank.

The Co-operative movement has gone through a pretty awful time in recent years largely due to debt and the governance failures of the Co-op Bank following the Financial Crisis.

But there is still a massive consumer retail co-operative movement in this country with 8 million members and 100,000 employees.I think it has potentially a bright future.

The arguments in favour of Co-operatives remain the same as do their values and principles. "Co-operative businesses are owned and run by and for their members, whether they are customers, employees or residents. As well as giving members an equal say and share of the profits, co-operatives act together to build a better world".

Co-ops are not perfect but how better is it to shop at your local co-op, rather than with other supermarkets who may pay their staff poverty wages on insecure employment contracts; cream off the profits, who don't care about the environment or are tax cheats.

Following the problems and uncertainty of recent years it is natural that the Co-op Group stops and thinks about its future. But it is vital that the Co-op continues to have a political voice and retains its link to the Co-operative Party. In the same way as trade unions created the Labour Party in order to have a political voice, the Co-op needed to have their voice and that is why they created the Co-operative Party.

At the forth coming 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Co-operative Group there may be a motion to end the link with the Co-operative Party, which would mean the end of its political voice and its representation in Parliament.

Ending the 98 year political voice of the Group would be a further blow to the movement at a time of rebirth after crisis. If there is no strong voice for co-operative values in politics and society then then we risk becoming further marginalised and then irrelevant.

I hope at the AGM members will vote to "Keep it Co-op" and save our political voice.

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