This year is the 100th anniversary of the Co-operative party, and I’m proud to say I’ve been a cooperator for two decades.
The party was born out of the unjust conscription of cooperative workers by the Conservative government towards the end of WW1, with other retail workers exempt.
Not only that, the War Office gave contracts to their cronies, cutting the co-op out.
The co-op party was a unique organization by virtue of a female majority in its membership despite the fact that universal suffrage had yet to be won.
This refusal to be constrained by the unfairness of the current system and determination to create change is as vital now as it was then.
Co-ops need the political support from Co-op Labour MP’s to create new economic opportunities for the 21st century.
Co-ops can disrupt a system that is showing the same signs of imbalance and injustice that the co-op was originally formed to fight.
To do this, we need the radical proposals laid out in Labours 2017 manifesto, with bold ambitions to double the co-operative sector.
This requires a true legal definition for co-operative ownership, allowing local companies that can challenge existing monopolies.
This could transform sectors such as energy, giving people a genuine alternative to tackle the pressing problem of fuel poverty.
More than that, a revitalised co-operative sector could open the way for workers ownership of companies and democratic representation of workers in the boardroom.
I’m so proud of what the co-op party has already done in face of austerity.
From tackling the housing crisis with co-operative housing to supporting those vulnerable to loan sharks with credit unions, we have stood firm against this vicious Tory government.
But to create a truly radical programme of cooperative ownership we need a Labour government with the political will to make it happen.