Despite Labour’s general election defeat last year, the Co-operative Party remains in rude health with its largest ever Parliamentary Group at Westminster; the biggest membership total in 20 years and money in the bank following a belt-tightening review aimed at cutting costs.
The Party’s annual report for the 12 months to the end of December, 2010, said the Party ended the year with a reasonable surplus (£32,712 before tax); kept costs down, but maintained activity “at a very high level”.
Although last year’s election resulted in a net loss of one Co-op MP, the fact that the number of Labour/Co-op peers increased to 15 (16 before the death of Lord Fyfe of Fairfield in February) means the Party now has its highest ever representation at Westminster.
There are currently 28 Labour/Co-op MPs, which amounts to 11 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party and this is three per cent up on the figure in the previous Parliament.
Three Co-op Parliamentarians — MPs Ed Balls and Meg Hillier and Labour/Co-op peer Lord Bassam of Brighton — are in the Shadow Cabinet, while a further nine Co-operative Party members were appointed shadow ministers. In addition, three Labour/Co-op MPs chair Parliamentary Select Committees.
In fact — for the first time ever — most members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are also Co-op Party members, including party leader Ed Miliband.
At the end of 2010, the Co-op Party had 8,187 members — up by 1,142 on the previous year’s total — and the annual report said a successful recruitment drive not only provided new members for the Party, but also boosted membership of co-operative societies.
Chair Gareth Thomas MP commented: “The Party made enormous strides towards its strategic goals with more members than it has had for 20 years; more young members; the implementation of a women’s strategy; the further development of a network for members from BAME communities and greater accountability, fairness and transparency in the allocation of resources and geographical boundaries for local party units.
“As we look forward towards 2012 and the International Year of Co-operatives, those members will be working with the Movement on the issues that matter most to the sector.”
The annual report shows that the Co-operative Group spent £519,293 on subscriptions and fees for managing political services with the Party last year, plus a donation of £40,550.
Midlands Co-operative contributed £63,027 , while Midcounties and East of England Society provided £33,745 and £20,967 respectively.
Southern Cop-operative, Scotmid and Chelmsford Star also provided subscription income, but a number of large and mid-sized retail societies including Anglia, Lincolnshire, Channel Islands and Heart of England made no contribution during the year.