“We’ve had a very difficult period as co-operators,” said Gareth Thomas MP at the opening of the Co-operative Party annual conference.
The event, which took place on 11-12 October at the Trades Union Congress House in London, brought together party activists, leading politicians and figures from the wider movement to discuss how to “build a better politics with co-operative values at its heart”.
Mr Thomas has chaired the party since 2000 and is the incumbent shadow minister for Europe. He introduced the weekend by reminding delegates of the actions the Co-operative Party could take should Labour return to government in the 2015 UK general election.
“We could raise minimum wage and start building housing again,” he said. “We could reverse the tide of privatisation. The co-op difference is to put users, patients and communities back into the heart of our public services.”
He added: “I know politics isn’t popular, but walking away from political action isn’t the answer.”
A key part of the conference was debates on the policies that will form the basis of the party’s 2015 election manifesto. Delegates discussed how the co-operative difference could be applied to policy on: communities and local government; energy and environment; co-operative development and consumer affairs; women and equalities; international development; and health and social care.
Delegates also took part in fringe events relating to the policy debates, and heard from keynote speakers including Ed Balls (shadow chancellor), Johann Lamont (leader of the Scottish Labour Party) and Angela Eagle (shadow leader of the House of Commons).
Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance, spoke on the final afternoon, presenting updates from the International Summit of Cooperatives which took place in Quebec the previous week.
12% of people within G20 countries are employed by co-operatives, Dame Pauline told delegates, but added that “we need to keep [co-operative] visibility high if we want to have an influence on the world economy.”
For more from the Co-operative Party annual conference, click here
In this article
- Angela Eagle
- British co-operative movement
- Co-operative Party
- Co-operative Party annual conference
- Cooperative Party
- Ed Balls
- Gareth Thomas
- House of Commons
- International Co-operative Alliance
- Johann Lamont
- Labour Party
- Pauline Green
- Scottish Labour Party
- shadow chancellor
- United Kingdom