The Co-operative Party is contesting over 900 seats in this year’s elections with a Labour/Co-op candidate on the ballot in nearly 90% of the UK.
Labour/Co-op candidates will stand in local council, London Assembly, Metro Mayoral, Police and Crime Commissioner, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd elections.
Since 1927, the Co-operative Party has had an electoral agreement with Labour Party, which enables it to stand joint candidates in elections.
The Co-operative Party launched its 2021 elections campaign on 8 April with an online event featuring some of these candidates, who introduced the party’s five key priorities for rebuilding the economy post Covid-19.
These are: tackling food poverty; recovering high streets and town centres; encouraging community ownership of public places; making sure everyone pays their fair share of tax; and working to make communities safer, stronger and greener.
“It’s a hugely exciting time,” said secretary general Joe Fortune. “We’ve got a really firm conviction in our values and principles,” he added.
Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and shadow secretary for international development, warned there is much at stake in this year’s elections and Labour/Co-op elected candidates would be “in a great position to shape the future and continue to tackle inequalities”.
A former town planner and a first-time Scottish Parliament candidate for Central Scotland, Monica Lennon pointed to the role of co-ops and community ownership in regenerating high streets after Covid-19. “The national recovery needs to be rooted in the local economy,” she said.
Eve Holt, a Labour/Co-op councillor for Chorlton, Manchester, said neighbourhoods and community ownership were important tools in tackling inequalities. “Co-op values in action are absolutely key to how we unlock that potential that’s really exciting for a greener, fairer placed and much happier, healthier lives for all of us and for future generations,” she said.
Tom Hayes, a Labour/Co-op Oxford City councillor, talked about the role of co-operatives in addressing climate change. “There is no problem for which the co-operative solution is not the right solution,” he said. “With these elections we can achieve a co-operative break-through to achieve a climate break through.”
Lola Oyewusi, a Labour/Co-op candidate for Kent police and crime commissioner (PCC) and in the Kent local election, pledged to work with the USDAW union to keep shop workers safe.
“As co-operative candidates we know the values we can bring into our community, making them better, safer, stronger and greener,” she said.
Tracy Brabin, Labour/Co-op metro mayor candidate for West Yorkshire, said: “So much as stake in this year’s election. We face a choice on how we recover from the crisis. This is an exciting opportunity to build a fairer, more equal society.”
Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham and the chair of the Co-op Party, said: “People want better for the future than they’ve had in the past so it can’t be business as usual.”
Emma Hoddinott, the Co-operative Party’s local government officer, encouraged supporters to join the party’s campaign and events. “These elections are about a whole movement. Every member and every supporter can play their part to get co-operators elected and to put ideas into practice,” she said.
The launch also featured a video message form Angela Reyner, shadow secretary of state and deputy leader of the opposition, who said: “It’s so important that our co-operative values continue. We’ve seen throughout this pandemic how coming together in our communities supporting each other is the bedrock of what we stand for in the Labour and Co-operative movement.”
Co-operative agendas for Scotland and Wales
With elections approaching, the Co-operative Party has published two manifestos themed Owning the Future, in which it highlights its co-operative agendas for Scotland and Wales.
The Scottish manifesto includes policies around building a co-operative economy, education and culture, transport, energy, health and social care, empowering communities and co-operative housing.
The Party calls for measures such as the encouragement of the creation of local marketing co-ops by local businesses; including the values, principles and models of co-operation on the curricula of the UK’s education systems; giving genuinely community owned sports clubs tax breaks; encouraging community or co-operatively owned schemes through planning and taxation; and promoting of workers’ co-operatives in social care.
The manifesto also includes an eight-point plan to deliver more housing co-ops in Scotland. The party argues the Scottish government should work with the co-operative and social enterprise movements to ensure a task force is created to drive forward the advancement of these public transport model.
In its Welsh manifesto, the Party makes recommendations for the Welsh government, such as: adopting a Welsh Marcora Law to provide the legal framework, financial support and advice for worker buyouts; community options for pubs, shops, community centres and sports facilities and a community right of first refusal, supported by asset locks; working with rail users and staff and utilise expertise and best practice across the co-operative movement to develop the Wales and Borders rail franchise into a publicly owned, mutually controlled service; supporting youth co-operatives in schools; encouraging existing registered social landlords to adopt co-operative principles and support them in converting to mutuals and co-ops; and examining new and innovative ways to improve primary care, such as clinician co-operatives.
The two manifestos are available on the Party’s website.