Change at the top at the Co-operative Party

Claire McCarthy is leaving in July, while Gareth Thomas will not be standing for re-election as chair

Gareth Thomas MP is standing down as chair of the Co-operative Party’s national executive committee, a role he has held since 2001.

Announcing his decision to Co-op News, he said: “There’s a meeting in two weeks’ time for the annual selection process and I’m not going to re-submit.”

He added: “I’ve held this position for almost 20 years. The Party is in good position – it’s got a large number of MPs, a record number of councillors, and the co-op movement in very good health. It’s time for someone new at the top.”

Mr Thomas’ decision follows the announcement this week that Claire McCarthy is moving on from her role as general secretary of the Party in July. The decisions are not linked.

Related: Co-op Party rebrands to reflect renewed ambition

Ms McCarthy, who has held the role since October 2015, said: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to hold this role during what has been a very successful three and a half years for the Party.

“We have more individual members than at any time in our modern history; we have won a commitment that a future Labour government would work to double the size of the co-op sector … but maybe most importantly, we have stronger relationships across the co-operative movement.

“Working better together means that we have a louder voice and a bigger impact.”

She added: “I will always remember the fantastic way we celebrated our centenary in 2017; our centenary conference, the exhibition of our history, the events we held across the country and marching our centenary banner at the Durham Miners Gala. Leading a 100 year old organisation is about stewarding and nurturing something precious.  Together, we have done that.”

Mr Thomas said: “Claire has been a joy to work with, as have the rest of the staff as well. We’ve had some cracking successes, and I’m looking forward to carrying on as a Labour / Co-op MP.”

He said highlights of his time as chair include steering significant changes to co-op law through Parliament, and an expansion of co-op schools and credit unions.

“More latterly we championed the idea of an armed forces credit union, which has been introduced, and the campaigns on modern slavery have forced the government to move; our campaign on food poverty and hunger will hopefully do the same,” he said.

Related: Co-op Party gets ready for major Northern Ireland conference

Mr Thomas hopes the Party will continue to campaign for a second referendum on EU membership, and wants to see more progress on housing co-ops. “In the USA, housing co-ops are being used to help military veterans rebuild their lives and I don’t see why we couldn’t do that here.”

He added: “The thing we want is a Labour/Co-op government, bringing new legislation for co-ops and mutuals to expand, a new credit union act to help the sector help and serve all the people who could usefully benefit.

“Plus we’d like to see a shift to renewables and to give people more right to jointly own renewable power to fight against climate change.”

Mr Thomas said he wanted to thank “staff, members and politicians of the Co-op Party who have made my time as enjoyable as it has been”.

He added: “I’ll always be a co-operator, and I’m very proud to have had the privilege of chairing the Party for as long as I have. I look forward to helping it grow even more.”

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