Michael Stephenson announced today he is stepping down as General Secretary. Here is his letter to members.

Colleagues, comrades, co-operators,

I have told the NEC today that I will be standing down as General Secretary of the Co-operative Party in the coming months.

After nearly four years in the job I believe it is the right time to move on and support the movement in new ways.

In the time I have been General Secretary we have achieved a great deal. Working co-operatively with Party staff, the NEC and you, our loyal and committed members, we have delivered a significant track record of success;

  • Party membership grew by more than 40 per cent in the last 3 years and is now at its highest for 20 years
  • The Parliamentary group of Labour and Co-operative MPs grew to its highest ever level and more than half the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are now also members of the Co-operative Party
  • Our Labour and Co-operative MPs completed the most comprehensive package of legislation in the history of the co-operative movement
  • We produced the most comprehensive and professional Party Manifesto ever and secured 24 policy ideas from that document in the Labour Manifesto for the 2010 general election
  • New networks were established in the Party for women and for members from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities
  • A new Youth Committee was launched, leading to the doubling of the number of young Party members year-on-year
  • The Party introduced a new and innovative campaign on the re-mutualisation of the building societies that were disastrously converted into banks under Margaret Thatcher’s legislation and we have campaigned on a radical plan to return the railways to ownership by the people
  • The Party pioneered new and innovative grassroots campaigns like our “Sewn Up” campaign to support a women’s sewing co-operative in South Africa
  • We launched a new Co-operative Councils Network to bring co-operative solutions to town halls right round the country and provide a progressive alternative to Cameron’s phony “Big Society”
  • We doubled our representation in the Welsh Assembly
  • For the first time, the Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland is a Co-operative Party MSP
  • A branch of the Co-operative Party was established in Northern Ireland; and
  • We have sorted out how we organise ourselves with clear Party boundaries, better funding arrangements for local parties, a review of Party rules and a re-focusing on the 5 key objectives that are central to our survival and growth

But while we have achieved a great deal there are many more challenges to face.

The Tories and LibDems are cynically trying to steal our co-operative credentials and even take credit for all the legislation Co-operative MPs achieved under a Labour Government.

We have to fight the deception and cynical opportunism of the Tory/LibDem government and stop them destroying the reputation of our great co-operative movement.

We need to recruit more members, be more inclusive, more radical in our policies, more innovative in our campaigning, more imaginative in our fundraising and much better in our engagement with our most precious resource – our members.

I am confident we have the people, ideas and commitment to make that happen.

Although I am standing down as General Secretary I will not be leaving the co-operative movement and I will continue to be an active and committed member of the Party.

Please accept my sincere thanks for all the support you have given me and for all the advice you have provided when we have faced some tough decisions.

In this, the International Year of Co-operatives, it is vital that we show that we continue to be the genuine political arm of the co-operative movement and an effective sister party to Labour.

And we must also show that we are the party that more than any other upholds the values and principles of co-operation at a time when those values are most at risk of compromise by our enemies on the Right who talk the language of our movement but betray it with their actions at every opportunity.

With best wishes,

Yours in co-operation,