CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown, a Co-op Party member and lead Patron of the think tank, Mutuo, is lending his support to a massive recruitment drive which National Secretary Peter Hunt hopes will double party membership in a year.
Mr Hunt told delegates at last weekend's Co-op Party conference in Bournemouth, that although the party now has nearly 8,500 members, this is not good enough.
Setting a target of around 17,000 within 12 months, Mr Hunt said: "We need to take issues over our membership much more seriously ? there are problems.
"The party's membership is too small. We need it to be bigger, younger, more representative and much more dynamic. The big priority now is is getting more people in and aiming for mass membership."
A recruitment video produced specifically for the campaign and launched at the conference highlights the diverse influences the party has on the community from Supporters Direct to leisure and health services to investing in the community.
The video features a host of Co-op-supporting Labour MPs including Mr Brown, Home Office minister Hazel Blears, International Development minister and Co-op Party chair Gareth Thomas and Claire Ward, MP for Watford.
In his contribution to the video, Mr Brown says: "The Co-operative Party stands for enterprise, empowerment, social justice, Fairtrade and to create stronger communities. The values of the party are mine, too."
The six-minute film also shows Co-operative Group Director Len Wardle introducing newcomers to Fairtrade across Co-op stores; Mo Girach talking about the GP co-operative, Seldoc, where he is Chief Executive; and young people talking about how important ethics are to them.
Mr Hunt added: "The most likely source of members are in the Labour Party. We can succeed in the doubling of our membership over the next 12 months. We need to take this video to Labour Party branches with membership forms to promote the party and help get our message across.
"The responsibility falls on a small number of stalwarts who recruit members, but they need help. Increasing membership is our biggest challenge this year and we want everyone to get involved."
The membership drive is aimed at increasing the party's spending power, with subscription fees only accounting for two per cent of income. A rise in subscription rates from £ 5 to £ 10 was agreed by conference. The first rise since 1995 was also accompanied by an optional concessionary rate of £ 6 to be subsidised by local Party Councils.
In an attempt to further increase the party's appeal, a new seat will be available on the National Executive Committee for a minority ethnic representative after a motion brought by the South London Party was carried. The decision will see the NEC increase to 19 members with at least one seat open to an ethnic minority representative.
The party is also looking at increasing its appeal to younger people through events such as the Glastonbury Festival.
In response to a motion from the South Western Party calling for the party to be more active in attracting younger members, NEC vice-chair Jeanette Timmins said: "We will work closely with the Co-operative Group to raise our profile at these events."
? Further Co-op Party coverage in next week's Co-op News (w/e 25th September).