The Co-op Party has launched its Policy Platform ahead of the 2019 General Election, putting ideas for ‘Building a Fairer Future’ at the centre of its campaign activity. The platform was presented today (7 November) in Plymouth by Joe Fortune (general secretary), Anna Birley (policy officer) and Labour and Co-operative candidates Luke Pollard (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport) and Charlotte Holloway (Plymouth Moor View).
“A lot is at stake in this election,” said Mr Pollard. “There is a risk that we jump into it in the way it has been defined by the Conservatives – a Brexit election. But conversations we have had while door-knocking show people are more worried about local concerns, such as what is happening in their communities, on their high streets or in their workplaces.”
He believes the Party needs to make the case for change, and “articulate the way that local, bottom-up engagement can impact local people” and their communities. “We don’t need more top-down intervention,” he said. “Collective community endeavour can create solutions that really work […] When you establish a need for change, and what that change needs to be, mutual engagement must be part of the conversation. It was relevant when the Rochdale Pioneers founded their first shop and it’s even more relevant today. Co-operation can make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The ‘Building a Fairer Future’ policy platform shares ideas that the Co-operative Party wants to “put at the top of the next Parliament’s to-do list,” said Mr Fortune. “They come from the real-life experiences of our members and movement, who are already doing things differently across the country, whether that’s putting our co-operative values into practice on shop floors in every high street, through community share offers to build solar panels and save post offices, or on marches for a public vote on any Brexit deal.
”We’re excited to campaign for Labour and Co-operative candidates across the country so that they can pursue these vital priorities in Parliament.”
Speaking ahead of the launch, Co-operative Party chair and Labour and Co-operative Party candidate for Redcar, Anna Turley, said: “The Co-operative Party’s strength has always been its commitment to bold, innovative ideas to reshape our society. This latest policy platform sets out what we believe should be Parliament’s top priorities following this election. Through the co-operative principles and ideas we have set out, we can build a society in which power and wealth are fairly shared.”
The Platform includes: a commitment to at least double the size of the co-operative sector; unlocking potential with a new programme of community wealth building; tackling the climate emergency with a Co-operative Green New Deal; supporting a Fair Food Act to end hunger; and letting the public take back control of Brexit by putting any deal back to the people.
Charlotte Holloway said that the Policy Platform addressed the question of what a fairer future could look like. “At the moment we don’t have an economy that works for everyone,” she said. “People don’t feel like they have a stake in what is happening. In this age of polarisation and potential pessimism, co-operative ownership and community based solutions can help address this.”
Both candidates also highlighted the “huge ask” of doubling the size of the co-operative economy, which was a core output of the Co-operatives Unleashed report commissioned earlier this year by the Party and produced by the New Economics Foundation.
“For this to happen, we need to enable co-ops to set up, develop, grow and flourish,” said Ms Holloway, highlighting the work of Labour and Co-operative MPs Tracy Brabin (Batley & Spen) and David Drew (Stroud) on growing co-operatives within the childcare and agriculture sectors respectively.
Plymouth itself is a hub of co-operative activity, she added, with co-operation at the heart of Plymouth Council activity, local energy groups, the new South West Mutual bank and CATERed (a co-operative trading company jointly owned by 67 local schools and Plymouth City Council that provides school food to children and young people across the city). The policy launch itself was hosted at the Clipper on Union Street, a former pub that was bought by the local community in 2018 and now operates a pop up cafe and community market.
At the launch, Mr Pollard also spoke about how youth involvement was central to invigorating democratic renewal. “Young people still don’t feel like they have a voice,” he said, highlighting a bill that Jim McMahon MP (Oldham) tried to get through parliament, which would have reduced the voting age to 16. “The arguments against the youth vote are the same that were once used about women and the working class […] Those who dismiss the voice of young people are missing out on incredible brain power. They are the voters of the future. Dismiss them at your peril.” The first woman to take a seat in the House of Commons was Nancy Astor in 1919 – who represented Plymouth Sutton.
Mr Fortune added: “The Party is bringing co-operative values and principles into practical everyday policies that address some of the biggest challenges of times. These policies are the basic building blocks of common decency in our country but I am also devastated that we have to address these most basic of issues – such as the right to food – in Britain in 2019. The Policy Platform reflects a country at a crossroads.”