Election 2019: Co-op Party loses six seats; movement looks to influence government

Party chair Anna Turley was among the unseated candidates

In a general election that saw the Conservatives gain the largest majority since Margaret Thatcher, the Co-operative Party lost six seats that it co-sponsored with Labour. 

Of the 50 candidates the Co-op Party supported, 26 (52%) held their seats while 18 (36%) seats went to incumbents (12 Conservative (24%) and six SNP (6%)). Six seats (12%) were lost to the Conservative Party, in Leigh, Stoke-on-Trent, Wrexham, Great Yarmouth, Blyth Valley and Redcar, whose candidate Anna Turley is Co-operative Party chair.

On Twitter, Ms Turley thanked her team and the people of Redcar. “I’ve been honoured to have worked alongside the best team I could ever have dreamed of. People who have changed hundreds of lives for the better and won back over half a million pound for the most vulnerable,” she said. “Thanks very much to the people of Redcar. It’s been the absolute privilege of my life to serve you and fight for you for the last four years.”

Luke Pollard, who was re-elected to Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, said it was a “huge privilege” to be re-elected for the city of his birth. But he emphasised the the need for “a new generation of MPs to step forward to lead and to learn the lessons of defeat”.

The UK’s network of co-operative businesses, Co-operatives UK, said that as the politically independent voice of co-ops in the UK, it “looks forward to working with the incoming Conservative government”.

“Co-ops are a proven, pragmatic tool for people to work together and achieve their aspirations for stronger communities, better work and a more fulfilling, sustainable way of life,” said Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK secretary general. “A thriving co-operative economy will be critical in helping the Conservatives achieve many of the aims set out in their manifesto”.

One such area of overlap is community ownership; the Conservatives have promised a £150m Community Ownership Fund. “The co-op model is already at the heart of community ownership in the UK,” said Mr Mayo.

“To get value for this money, the fund will need to support community co-ops. We’re particularly keen for some of the fund to be used to support Community Shares. We have already begun consulting key partners and experts and will publish an evidence-based position in due course.”

The apex body said the Conservatives have committed to empowering communities in local economic decision-making, and how co-ops are also central to the party’s ambitions for community-led housing. “Our top priority here is for the government to take action in the upcoming Budget, to stop a subset of housing co-ops being wrongfully taxed as if they are ‘property enveloping’ schemes,” added Mr Mayo.

Co-operatives UK policy officer, James Wright, said the importance of co-ops to the Conservative agenda suggests the new government should take steps to ensure the UK is a better place to start and grow these businesses. “We’ll hope to pick up where we left off with HM Treasury on measures to make life easier for mutuals,” he said. 

“This government also plans to reform insolvency rules. This is something we are currently helping officials with, to ensure co-operative and community benefit societies are not overlooked. We will also be asking the new government to move responsibility for co-ops from HM Treasury and the Office for Civil Society, to the Department for Business, where it belongs.”

Meanwhile, Joe Fortune, general secretary of the Co-op Party, thanked members in a letter for their “hard work, campaigning, donations and support”. He also thanked the 50 Labour and Co-operative candidates who had fought the election.

“All our candidates made big personal sacrifices to serve their communities – they deserve our appreciation and I know you will be as proud of them as we are,” he said. “In particular I want to highlight the work of those who will not be returning after the election  – their contribution stands as a testament to their commitment to our movement.”

Mr Fortune said he was “delighted that the Co-operative Party will be represented in Westminster by a Group of 26 MPs who will be making the case for co-operative values and principles in the new Parliament”.

He added: “We have ambitious plans for a fairer society, and our team at Westminster will be working alongside our AMs, MSPs, Peers, councillors and thousands of members to shape a country based on co-operation, not division.”

The full list of Labour and Co-operative MPs is:

  • Jon Ashworth (Leicester South)
  • Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen)
  • Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)
  • Geraint Davies (Swansea West)
  • Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East)
  • Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth)
  • Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall)
  • Chris Evans (Islwyn)
  • Preet Gill (Birmingham Edgbaston)
  • Mark Hendrick (Preston)
  • Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch)
  • Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston)
  • Rachael Maskell (York Central)
  • Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton)
  • James Murray (Ealing North)
  • Alex Norris (Nottingham North)
  • Kate Osamor (Edmonton)
  • Luke Pollard (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport)
  • Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)
  • Steve Reed (Croydon North)
  • Christina Rees (Neath)
  • Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde)
  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton Kemptown)
  • Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
  • Alex Sobel (Leeds North West)
  • Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
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