Co-op Party sessions on racism in sport, international development and retrofitting

Speakers included Preet Kaur Gill MP, cricketer Azeem Rafiq and Heather Kennedy from the New Economics Foundation

Sport and racism

Azeem Rafiq, who prompted a reorganisation at Yorkshire County Cricket Club after speaking out against racist abuse he had received, was led in conversation by Alex Sobel, Labour/Co-op MP for Leeds North West.

Rafiq, whose family moved to the UK from Pakistan in 2001, when he was 10 years old, told delegates cricket had been his refuge from the strain of moving country. He became a professional cricketer, but by 2013 he was on anti-depressants and didn’t understand why.

In 2018 Rafiq lost a child and told delegates the treatment he received was “inhumane.” He tried to follow the official channels to have the racism addressed but that did not work.

Asked by Sobel if cricket has changed, Rafiq said he thinks Yorkshire CCC has changed but wider cricket has not.

Related: Member engagement in county cricket after the Yorkshire racism scandal

The club initially denied Rafiq’s allegations, and he said the inquiry did not speak to anybody directly affected by racism. The situation impacted his mental health, he added, and during the ordeal it felt like his two children did not have a father.

He does not feel like his children can play the sport and he wants to make sure that no child suffers the treatment he endured.

Like all county cricket clubs, Yorkshire is member-owned; Rafiq said he was grateful for the backing of a small number of members but the majority of members were not supportive; nor was the club membership reflective of the local community, with diverse local schools close to Headingley having no contact with the club.

Before receiving a standing ovation from the conference, Rafiq called for three changes to root out racism from cricket: a credible reporting mechanism; education so hose involved learn what it and what is not acceptable behaviour; and Yorkshire CCC actively reaching out to local, diverse, under-represented communities to recruit members.

Preet Kaur Gill on international development

Preet Kaur Gill, shadow international development secretary and Labour/Co-op MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, criticised the government, accusing it of attacking workers rights.

She said Labour would instead offer projects such as its proposed nationalised green energy company – and would try to put right Conservative failures on international development.

Related: Report from day one of the Co-op Party conference

A quarter of a billion people around the world live in poverty, she said, citing crises ranging from energy bill inflation in the UK to the extreme flooding in Pakistan with the extreme flooding.

Criticising the Conservative decision to axe the Department for International Development, Gill said the she would reinstate this and restore he UK’s contribution to international development to 0.7% of GNP. Labour would also make the UN sustainable development goals a priority, she added, and enact a green development policy with the climate emergency as its heart.

It would also be a feminist policy that invests in women’s co-operatives, she said – and urged delegates to make the case to the British public for the values of international development, in a society where scepticism often wins.

Retrofitting the UK’s homes

Emma Hoddinott, assistant general secretary of the Party, highlighted the issue of the UK’s poorly insulated housing stock. Low cost measures, such as 30-minute sessions from energy advisors, can help, she said – and co-ops are a trusted solution to the problem.

Heather Kennedy from the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which is running the Great Homes Upgrade campaign, which is calling for the upgrade of 19 million homes by 2030, via stakeholders including trade unions, further education colleges and retrofit practitioners.

Related: Rose Marley of Co-ops UK at the Labour and Conservative conferences

The campaign is practically engaging with those most affected by the energy crisis, added Kennedy, going door knocking in a local community, sending outreach teams to foodbanks and inviting people to a warm homes café event, which proposed a plan for public action.

She challenged delegates to go to their local communities and find 20 people who are willing to get in a room to campaign on this issue; if this can be done, NEF will appoint an outreach campaigner deliver organiser training.