Britain needs co-operative values. Co-operative values are based on a very simple premise – that we do better for ourselves if we cooperate with each other, rather than simply seeing ourselves as isolated individuals.

This is not based on some naïve view that people are simply altruistic and don’t care about themselves or their families. The progressive movement at its best has always been about understanding the importance of people’s interests in advancing their own lives and those of their families, and ensuring the next generation does better than the last.

What we recognise is that self interest and altruism are not in conflict. We can cooperate together for our own direct benefit, for mutual benefit, and the benefit of others. Those are the central principles of the co-operative movement when it was founded all those years ago in Rochdale.

As I said in a previous LabourList article, at the next election the Labour Party must be ready with a vision of the kind of society we want to see. The Co-operative Party has a central role to play.

I want a society which is fairer and where we tackle poverty and inequality. But we can’t achieve that without people coming together to make a difference to their own lives. We need co-operative organisations and social enterprises such as Big Wide Talk which empowers parents not only to help their kids but to stand up and see themselves as equal with those in positions of authority. We need to understand, as the Co-operative Party does, the importance of a state that empowers people to make the most of their own lives.

I want a society that is more cohesive, including one that is cohesive between generations. Today young people, some of whom who have more opportunities than ever before, also face more pressures and risks than ever before. Older people now have the prospect of a longer life than ever before but also fear isolation. We need the values of mutuality, more than ever.

Such values are turned into action every day in co-operative trust schools for example where the generations share the same space and rub along together. It means older people don’t assume the worst about younger people but instead are mobilised to pass on their wisdom their guidance and their compassion. Younger people also have more chance to show respect for older people and are motivated to befriend, look out for and care. We need more of such institutions that can bring together different members of the community.

I want a society that protects the planet for future generations. This requires us to come together collectively and act. And co-operative organisations around the country are showing what can be done: from local farmer’s markets sourcing local foods, to community wind farms to the transition towns movement. Hundreds of co-operative organisations are campaigning for a deal at Copenhagen and thousands have already signed my pledge.

The work of the co-operative movement throughout the country shows that we should have huge faith in the ability of people to come together to address the problems in our society.

Today the Co-operative Party launches its draft manifesto for the next General Election, filled with ideas of how we can

go even further to bring co-operative values into our society. As we work towards producing the next Labour Party manifesto, the Co-operative Party have a central role in renewing the ideas that will take us into a fourth term.

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