Co-op figures back Ed Balls for Leader

Four well-known figures in the Co-operative Movement have issued an open letter in a bid to secure support for Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls.

Signing themselves ‘Co-operative Members for Ed Balls’, the four — former Co-op Party General Secretary Peter Hunt, Co-operative Group Chair Len Wardle, newly-elected Labour/Co-op MP Chris Leslie and Mr Balls’ campaign co-ordinator ex-MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry — say the Morley & Outwood MP is “an honest and loyal friend of the Movement” and deserves the support of co-operators in his efforts to become leader and potential Prime Minister. 

Mr Balls’ campaign is also being supported by Heywood & Middleton Labour/Co-op MP Jim Dobbin, though as this article was written — before the close of nominations on June 9th — five Co-op MPs, including Co-op Party Chair Gareth Thomas, had nominated former Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Mr Milband’s younger brother, Ed, is being backed by Edinburgh North & Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz, while another Co-op-sponsored MP, Alan Keen (Feltham & Heston) has signed Andy Burnham’s nomination papers.

The letter: 

For most aspiring Parliamentarians, the decision to seek to become a Labour/Co-operative MP is a bold step. To start with, you must be selected by two parties, not just one, and then there is a whole niche of specialist policy to get to grips with. Doing it well is not easy.

It means that those who choose this route are serious about advancing the co-operative agenda. Once in power though, the pressure of the mainstream Labour Party and competing challenges means that, too often, Co-operative Party ministers are deflected from their chosen path.

Not so Ed Balls. Ed’s record as a minister promoting the Co-op agenda is unparalleled. Both as a Treasury Minister and as Secretary of State at DCSF, Ed sought to drive forward the co-operative vision of society with an energy and decisiveness that is all too rare.

As Economic Secretary and the first Labour/Co-op ‘Minister for Mutuals,’ Ed ensured Government support for the modernisation of co-operative law through a range of statutory instruments that built on recent Private Members’ Bills.

Long before it became fashionable, Ed pulled off an exceptional piece of cross-party co-operation by ensuring Treasury support for a Conservative backbench Private Members’ Bill that led to the creation of the first ever ‘super-mutual’ bringing Britannia Building Society and the Co-op Bank together in the interests of customers, rather than the banking elite.

Even before his election to Parliament, Ed was a strong friend and supporter of the Co-operative Party. As economic adviser at the Treasury, he helped facilitate Government support for key co-op legislation, including the passage of three Private Members’ Bills.

Many thought his move to Education would limit his ability to promote further co-operation. Yet, within months as Secretary of State, he took the radical step of supporting the establishment of co-operative trust schools — often in the face of the strong opposition from civil servants.

Ed is a determined and principled politician. He is also a loyal and honest friend of the Co-operative Movement. Co-operative members should seize this opportunity to support Ed as he contests the leadership of the Labour Party. 


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