Jeremy Corbyn

Leader of the Labour Party

“Of the best leaders, the people we say we did it ourselves”, so said Lao Tzu. It was a quote Tony Benn was very fond of remembering.

Tony was one of the few ministers of state to truly try to bring cooperative principles into the heart of government. As a young trade union official I had the pleasure of working with him when he was encouraging workers to come up with co-operative plans to save their jobs, like at Triumph.

What that process unleashed was greater creativity and innovation that top-down management – and some very top-down unions back then – felt comfortable with. But what it showed is that if you involve people as mutual participants in building their own future then you release their energy and enterprise, in the true sense of that word.

I believe in public ownership, but I have never favoured the remote nationalised model that prevailed in the post-war era. Like a majority of the population and a majority of even Tory voters, I want the railways back in public ownership. But public control should mean just that, not simply state control: so we should have passengers, rail workers and government too, co-operatively running the railways to ensure they are run in our interests and not for private profit.

This model should replace both the old Labour model of topdown operation by central diktat and Tories favoured model of unaccountable privatised operators running our public services for their own ends.

Take education, where local schools are now encouraged to compete against one another. I want them to co-operate, and the best way for that to be achieved is through an accountable co-ordinating and co-operative structure that involves parents, teachers, and councillors in reformed local education authorities. Within this structure, schools can co-operate, share best practice, and pool their resources. It would be addition and an expansion of what you have achieved with your network of co-operative schools.

Our vision for 2020 must be about improving living standards, which will fall further for many in the wake of George Osborne’s Budget proposals. But it must also be about improving people’s control over their own lives – especially in their work and their housing.

For too many people their job and their housing is not a source of security, but a cause for anxiety. We need to change that. So I want to give employees a statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession, and to tenants to demand the same if their landlord decides to sell multiple properties.

The co-operative movement is a force for human emancipation here in the UK and around the world. I want the next Labour government in 2020 to work with you so that we are driven by co-operative principles: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity

Tom Watson

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

If I’m elected deputy leader I’ll foster a new spirit of support between the Labour Party, Trade Unions and the co-operative movement that recognises we share a political agenda and a common purpose.

Since 1917 the Co-operative Party has been the political voice of our movement. My job as deputy leader will be to ensure everyone, inside and outside the Labour movement, hears that voice.
Working together, our two parties have delivered real achievements and have much to be proud of. Our 1927 agreement to field joint candidates has resulted in the election of Labour and Co-operative Party councillors, MSPs, AMs, and MPs who’ve given real power back to ordinary people. We’ve acted to protect consumers, shaped public services to meet local needs and developed innovative solutions to affordable housing.

But there’s much more we can do by working closer together. We’ve an opportunity to develop a deeper and more effective dialogue between the Labour Party and a reinvigorated Co-operative Party following your successful vote at the Co-operative Group AGM.

That’s why I’d establish a Labour/Co-operative Forum. The Forum would bring together frontbench representatives from the UK and Scottish Parliaments, the Welsh Assembly, City Hall and local Town Halls with representatives from the Co-operative Party, the Labour Party and Trade Unions. I believe that would help ensure co-operative ideals are at the heart of Labour’s policy development and political programme, whether in opposition or in Government, across our cities and towns in England and Wales.

We can only do that by sharing examples of co-operative values in action and that only happens when we sit down and exchange ideas. I passionately believe every manifesto we produce, at whatever level, should have Co-operative Party input. The Forum would plan joint campaigns and initiatives, helping to reengage members of the Labour and Cooperative parties in the political process and becoming a powerful force for community action.

With a renewed focus on policy-development, and a greater emphasis on working together, Labour can help the Co-operative Party demonstrate to the new leadership of the Co-operative Group that it remains a potent political force.

I’ve made it clear that the key to Labour winning again in 2020 rests with our members and councillors working in their communities. This includes the thousands of Co-operative Party members and the hundreds of Labour and Co-operative councillors who demonstrate the importance of community organising every day.

Co-operative approaches are inspiring Labour councillors around the country. That’s why Labour has so much to gain by developing an even closer relationship with your movement. Labour can develop deeper relationships with communities all over Britain by learning from the Co-operative Party’s example.

That’s why I’d like the Co-operative Party to be given an ex-officio seat on Labour’s National Executive Committee and increased representation on the National Policy Forum. We’ve fought elections together for 88 years to make our communities, our country and the world a better place. We share a proud history. Our sister party deserves a seat at Labour’s top table.