Co-operatives have helped to create a model that is a different way of running the economy. This was the message from Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey, in her keynote address at the Co-operative Party annual conference. Ms Eagle also talked about the relationship between the co-operative and labour movements and the offer they can make to the electorate.
The Labour politician, who chairs the party’s National Policy Forum, thinks the next election is the most important in a generation. The electorate are faced with a battle between “the politics of fear and despair, and the politics of hope and optimism”, she said.
“It’s up to us on the progressive left of politics to think about how we can persuade people that politics does have the potential to transform the way in which our society works, move away from assumptions held since the Reagan and Thatcher era, and encourage people in our way, showing there’s a much better way forward.”
Ms Eagle also said she hoped the Co-operative Party had gained significant assurance that Labour’s policies reflect co-operative values.
“The Co-operative Party has a very engaged and enthusiastic delegation to the National Policy Forum.
“Over the last four years we’ve been taking a careful look at all of the Labour Party’s policies, how we can deal with the challenges ahead in the next few years, and also how we can write a manifesto that will, I hope, get us elected when we come to the election in 2015.”
She explained how the Co-operative Party’s delegation has played an important role in drafting Labour’s policies around housing, credit unions, energy co-operatives and co-operative schools, which would help ensure a “better policy offer”.
“They’ve had a really creative input and made us think hard about the way in which we take things forward. We have got an entire agenda around those areas, recognising that the co-operative way of delivering services and the co-operative way of running our economy is actually more sustainable and helpful for creating a fairer society – and preventing this kind of wealth extraction that goes on with plcs where increasingly you get agents not actually creating wealth, but extracting it for their own purposes, leaving customers to be exploited. You get that in some of the bigger utilities, so the co-op model has a lot to offer as an alternative.”
“We need you in the Labour Party for us to be successful,” she told Co-operative Party delegates. “It’s really important that you remain a different way and progressive way of running the economy. It would be an enormous irreplaceable loss if you were to give up.”
She called on co-operators to demonstrate that social justice and the values of solidarity and looking after each other were more important than the “politics of fear”.
“We want to create a society where everybody takes responsibility for the good of all, not only obsessed with the good of a few. We want to see diversity growing, rather than rises in inequality.”
The Labour MP described a different way to respond to the dislocation caused by the forces of globalisation, by creating circumstances in which people feel in control of the decisions they make, rather than depending on zero hour contracts.
“The amount of money going to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been squeezed and the amount going to profit has been growing, stretching out the unequal nature at the top,” said Ms Eagle.
“Part of the solution is to spread the co-operative model.
“Let’s continue to work together as fruitfully as we have, and make sure that when the election comes, we work together to assert the values we have. Let’s go for the politics of hope and challenge the politics of division. I know that together we can do it,” she concluded.
For more from the Co-operative Party annual conference, click here