With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, the shadow cabinet is getting behind a new form of of socialism.
At the Labour Party conference, the leader talked about “building a society for the majority” and working in communities to make lives better. He highlighted a few areas of the economy that need fixing, such as housing, digital connectivity and renewable energy/conservation.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell backed co-ops as the answer when he said genuine mutual forms of ownership (co-operative and worker-controlled) are needed for a successful and fair economy.
In its five-month reign as a single party government, the Conservatives have not made any new mutual pledges. Its election manifesto presented some policy ideas around uniting people to improve the country as well as making financial services more accessible through credit unions.
The Conservative Party conference is taking place this week – so it’s yet to be seen what, if any, part co-operatives can play in its future economy. From a look at the agenda and fringe meetings of the conference, the only session taking place is a joint Respublica / Co-operatives UK meeting to discuss the case for mutual business models.
So, the co-operative sector can hope that the shadow government will apply pressure to government policies by advocating a co-operative economy. In her latest article, Frances Coppola says Labour should not hark back to the state socialist policies of the 1970s. And that the last two elections of ‘Tory-lite’ policies have done the party no favours, either.
It comes down to what the people want. In the majority, people want to work to provide better lives for themselves. Jeremy Corbyn is telling people that by working together they can achieve so much more. A notion we’re all too familiar with.
So when his challenges come to the government, will Jeremy Corbyn be highlighting the co-operative advantage? If so, there would be a greater impact if ideas are ready to be delivered by co-operative policymakers.
A mutualisation of the railway – which looks like one of Jeremy Corbyn’s pet projects, will need to have a co-operative answer. There has already been work behind this from the Co-operative Party with its high-profile People’s Rail campaign, which has provided a template as to how it could work in Scotland.
And four years ago, Co-operatives UK looked at the British public’s appetite to invest in a ‘co-operative rail’. Three-quarters of commuters wanted a greater say in the running of rail services, while two-thirds said they should have a greater ownership stake in train companies.
All of these ideas are set to put the country on track to a co-operative railway. Full steam ahead!