When the Labour leadership hustings timetable was announced a few weeks ago, I was absolutely delighted to see that there was going to be a co-operative hustings jointly hosted by the Labour Party & the Co-operative Party in Manchester, the beating heart of the co-operative movement, on Saturday July 31st. Fantastic, I thought! In my mind it was yet another visible sign of the Labour Party taking its sister movement seriously on the big issues.

Having been to two Labour Leadership hustings over the weekend, I have to confess that I decided to skip going to the Fabians hustings on Monday night. Having heard very similar pitches at both the Youth and the Compass hustings from all the candidates, I was afraid that hearing the same thing for a third time in as many days might make me feel less excited about the leadership election and the rebuilding of the Labour Party than I actually am.

Having now had the chance to hear for myself the offer from each candidate, I am thinking more about what I am actually looking for from our future Leader. Anyone who knows me will know that I am little miss co-op, having lived and breathed the co-operative movement over the past five years, so I was particularly keen to hear anything they had to say with a co-operative context. I left with less food for thought than I had hoped for – a mention of the Co-operative Bank by Andy Burnham, some talk of credit unions & co-operative councils from David Miliband, but nothing else.

So whilst I am of course still really pleased that the Co-operative husting are happening, in some ways I wish there was no need for them. I am sure tat it will be an ideal opportunity for each of the five candidates, all members of the Co-operative Party, might I add, to ‘out co-op’ each other. However why do we need a special niche hustings to talk about something which we as co-operators have fought to make mainstream for so many years?

I want there to be a candidate that is up on that stage talking about their co-operative vision for the party, putting both our values and principles and our solutions at the heart of their offer to party members, and by extension to the electorate, on a daily basis. That is what will excite me. At a time when, in my mind, we need values-driven, people-centric politics, I frankly think that the fact that no candidate seems to see co-operatives as the opportunity of this leadership election as hugely short sighted.

So my ask would be to the candidates as you try to find new things to say throughout this summer of hustings overload, don’t wait until the 31st July to talk about a broader co-operative agenda. Give some bandwidth to a movement which is 150 years old but arguably more relevant than ever before. This ask comes at a time when it is clear that the Tories have no shame when it comes to co-operatives – just because they fundamentally don’t believe in them or understand them, isn’t going to stop them trying to gain this ground.

And never has the time to take co-operatives so seriously been timelier, as the next couple of weeks sees the first of a new addition to the campaigning calendar, Co-operatives Fortnight. This awareness campaign has been created by the movement to promote co-operative & mutual organisations and the theme this year is ‘There is an Alternative’. As the campaign website tells us:

“it is a call for people to do things differently – to work together as individuals, colleagues and communities & businesses. For 14 days co-operatives across the economy and up and down the country will be showing that there is an alternative.”

Kicking off the Fortnight is ’52 Ways to Change the World Co-operatively’, a fiesta of all things co-operative at Westminster Central Hall in London on Saturday from 11am – 4.30pm. Visit the co-operative marketplace, collecting a pack of cards as you go, with 52 actions you can take to change the world using a co-operative; watch ethical cookery demonstrations; and listen to inspirational speakers including Tessa Jowell and Councillor Steve Reed.

Everyone is welcome and that invite is particularly extended to the leadership candidates – if you fancy dropping in, I and others from the movement would be delighted to show you just how inspiring co-operatives can be.

Alternatively just help you cram for the Values and Principles test that you’ll be subjected to on 31st July…

This article originally appeared on LabourList.org