The chair of the Co-op Party, Jim McMahon, has welcomed Sir Keir Starmer’s speech setting out his vision for the UK and said co-ops would have a key role to play in its realisation.
Sir Keir – leader of sister party Labour – gave the speech on 18 February; it is his first major speech on the economy since he became leader of the opposition last April.
Attacking the government’s record, he sought to rally his party with a vision for national recovery from its economic crisis and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He called for a new savings scheme to let people to “have a stake in our national recovery” through bonds offering a competitive interest rate, with the money invested in national reconstruction .
Other pledges saw an offer of “start-up loans for 100,000 new small firms, especially in areas outside the south-east, and a call for a weekly £20 increase to universal credit benefits to run beyond the scheduled end date on 31 March.
Mr McMahon, Labour/Co-op MP MP for Oldham West and Royton, and transport spokesman in Sir Keir’s frontbench team, repeated the leader’s call for a reversal of planned cuts to Universal Credit, benefiting six million families by £1,000 a year. He also urged the government to give local councils “the funding they need to prevent Boris Johnson’s council tax bombshell” and to extend the business rate holiday and VAT cut for the embattled hospitality and leisure sectors.
“The need to rebuild an empowering state so it can be fit for the challenge ahead is critical,” wrote Mr McMahon in a comment on Labour List. “Without a foundation of decent public services we cannot hope to put power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of working people. Only with an active state – one that takes determined action – will be rebuild our fragile nation.”
He said co-ops would be crucial to this process.
“In search of solutions, we can take comfort in our collective achievements … If you want to build an inclusive economy – rooted in community, returning value and acting in the long-term interests of our nation – then co-operatives provide the answer.
“With the Budget due in just a couple of weeks, the Chancellor has choices to make, and it is vital he makes the right ones. With Keir’s longstanding support of the movement, and with the shadow chancellor [Anneliese Dodds] as one of seven Labour and Co-operative MPs serving on the shadow cabinet, you would expect policies being developed to be co-operative proof, and that is exactly what has been delivered.”
Mr McMahon said the recovery bond and small business fund would, among other things, create “a new generation of co-operatives” and “give working people a stake in the future and a dividend on the contribution they make”.
He added: “The co-operative movement is strong, with over 7,000 independent co-ops employing over 240,000 people and have over 14 million members, worth over £38bn to the UK economy. It will be the foundation we will build on as a movement.
“Labour’s proposals would help spread small businesses, which are rooted in their local communities by design. It would encourage more businesses to consider registering as social enterprises, co-operatives, employee-owned businesses, as well as establishing a preference for joint ventures, as evidence suggests that these are more successful and durable in the long run.”
The recovery fund will also bring investment to communities, said Mr McMahon. “No more warm words that fail to deliver, but reimagining vibrant high streets and investing in people to realise their full potential in every part of the country.
“As we think ahead to the new economy a true partnership between government, enterprise and people will tackle the climate crisis and support the creation of new skilled jobs. This is a moment to start a new chapter for our country, one of hope and a collective endeavour. Co-operation will be at the forefront of our renewal.”