Co-op Party writes to Labour leadership contenders

As the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn begins, the Party asks: ‘why should co-operators give you their support?’

The nominations process for the Labour leadership race has closed, with Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry in the running for the top job.

Candidates for the deputy leadership are Rosena Allin Khan, Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray and Angela Rayner.

Each candidate will now require either 5% of CLPs or at least 3 affiliates (at least 2 of which shall be a trade union) compromising 5% of affiliated membership to be successfully included on the ballot. The final date for CLPs and affiliates to submit their nomination is Friday 14 February, with the election held on 4 April.

Joe Fortune, general secretary of Labour’s sister organisation, the Co-operative Party, has written to the candidates to ask their position on the co-operative movement.

He writes: “The thousands of Co-operative Party members and tens of thousands of supporters are often Labour Party members too. These members and supporters demonstrate the power, attraction of the coherence of our co-operative values and principles.

“I am sure they will want a clearer idea of the next generation of Labour leaders’ co-operative vision – both in terms of their co-operative ideas as well as how they hope to strengthen the relationship with the co-operative movement’s political party.”

He added: “The Co-operative Party has been part of Labour’s broad church longer than most of us have been alive, and we fervently believe that this church is strongest when its constituent parts are valued parts of the congregation – not just on the value of what they contribute when the plate is passed round but on the experience, richness and ideas they bring to the community.

Like me, I suspect co-operators were heartened by the ambition of policy commitments made over recent years, the focal point of which was a serious commitment to work to double the size of the co-operative sector.

However, we believe there is scope to be more ambitious, and that there is much more to learn from the ideas, people and co-operatives we seek to faithfully represent. Their example points to the way forward for a fairer economy where wealth and power are shared, and where communities and activists are empowered to make change happen from the bottom up.”

Related: After Labour’s defeat, does the co-op council model show a route to renewal?

Mr Fortune said commentators had identified a range of challenges to the Labour Party, including “the need to earn trust; to build genuine relationships in every community; to develop an enabling policy framework; and to demonstrate a wider value and narrative around the importance of common ownership”.

He added: “Given this and other challenges in front of us we believe that our co-operative values, principles and action have a vital place in the market for answers and part of the future path for the Labour Party. Co-operators are always looking to work with others to help build the vision of their co-operative endeavour and in turn the type of society they wish to see.

“We hope that, through the coming period and when the results of this important contest are announced, co-operation and co-operators have a bright future to look forward to as we build towards government once again.”