The Co-operative Party hosted a private viewing of its centenary exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on Friday, to celebrate “values that are worth fighting for”.
The event saw a speech by Andy Burnham, the Labour/Co-op mayor for the devolved strategic government of Greater Manchester, who said it was his “duty” to put the movement’s values into practice, in areas such as housing and social care.
Mr Burnham’s remarks followed a welcome from Gavin Shuker, Labour/Co-op MP for Luton South, who said: “To be here and to be associated with the stories being told, of ordinary working people and their families, is incredible.”
Mr Shuker thanked the guests, the museum, and the co-op societies sponsoring the exhibition, Pioneering the Future: The Politics of Co-operation, which looks back over the Party’s “first 100 years”.
He said the Party is now “the third largest in Parliament, making contributions in all areas of policy. We have the highest membership ever in our history. It shows there is a thirst for our values, our way of doing things, a new way of thinking.”
Mr Burnham also spoke of the desire to see co-op principles put into action, describing his involvement since 1999 in the Supporters Direct campaign for fan-ownership of football clubs.
“If ever co-op values were needed in football, it is now,” he said.
He said he was “humbled and honoured” to be Manchester’s Labour/Co-op mayor, and said the city was the ideal site for the exhibition.
Describing a heritage including the Rochdale Pioneers, Suffragettes and Peterloo Massacre, he said the area was “the home of radical thinking”.
He added: “It’s my job to make sure it continues to be the home of radical thinking. People are ready for something different.”
Repeating his pledge to end rough sleeping in the city by 2020, he said: “In 2017 everybody should sleep with a roof over their head.”
He added there was room to put co-op values into areas such as housing and social care, and criticised a privatised care system “where profits are being made from a social care system where people are being looked after with 15-minute visits”.
He said devolved powers offered a chance to put co-operative ideas to work, adding: “As the Labour/Co-op mayor, it is my duty to put those ideas into practice.”
Russell Gill, a trustee of the People’s History Museum and head of co-operative relations at the Co-op Group, said the exhibition was another example of the Museum’s celebration of the co-op movement, which also displays Women’s Guild banners and houses the CWS packaging archive.
He added that an exhibition on death and the working class had been sponsored by Co-op Funeralcare. The museum and the Co-op Party display showed that “co-op ideas are worth fighting for”, added Mr Gill.