That’s the view of Party General Secretary Michael Stephenson as co-operators from around the UK prepare to converge on Edinburgh for what is predicted to be a “historic and unique” annual conference over the weekend of September 11th to 13th.
Mr Stephenson told the News: “There has never been a time when the co-operative and mutual ideal has been more important to the future of our economy and our society. This year’s conference reflects the deep roots of the Party in the Movement and it is fitting that it is being held in Edinburgh to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Scotmid Co-op.
“We are campaigning more than ever on the issues that matter most to co-operators and making a real difference to the health of the sector and the future prosperity of co-operatives.”
Mr Stephenson said the conference will feature a major fringe event on the Party’s ‘The Feeling’s Mutual’ campaign to re-mutualise the failed banks de-mutualised by the Conservatives. The event, which will feature Treasury Minister and Labour/Co-op MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry, is being seen as a rallying point for one of the most important issues for co-operators.
“We are running a major campaign to undo the damage Margaret Thatcher and the Tories did to our building societies,” said Mr Stephenson. “Party members and supporters have responded in incredible numbers to the campaign with around 1,000 people signed up to The Feeling’s Mutual Facebook group.
“The fringe event will allow Party members the opportunity to discuss where this exciting campaign is going and how they are using it in their local communities to spread the word about how mutuality can be an antidote for the greed of the traditional banking sector.”
The conference will also feature a fringe event with SERA — Labour’s Environment campaign — and the launch of a major initiative to boost the involvement of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Co-op Party members through a new members network.
The General Secretary said the BAME network was one of a number of opportunities to increase and diversify membership of the Party.
“The Co-operative Press is hosting a women’s reception and the Party’s Youth Committee will be holding a meeting to reflect on the success of its first year in increasing the number of young members of the Party.”
Added Mr Stephenson: “The Co-operative Party is growing in numbers and influence and its composition is more and more reflecting the diversity of the communities that co-operatives serve around the country.
“Once again there will be a strong presence of senior political figures including Cabinet Ministers Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, and Labour/Co-op members of the House of Commons, House of Lords, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.”
A special screening of the film ‘Burma VJ’, supported by the Co-operative Group, will be held around the opening of the popular marketplace display which will showcase the activities of Scotmid and a wide range of co-operative, mutual and progressive organisations.
“There is a real sense of excitement about this year’s conference and delegates will be debating an interesting range of resolutions reflecting the policy interests of members on the economy, housing, the environment, health, education, employment and international development,” concluded Mr Stepenson.