Looking back on our Centenary year – and forward in 2018

General Secretary Claire McCarthy looks back on 2017 - the Party's Centenary year, and outlines some priorities for the year ahead.

General Secretary


What have you been most proud of in 2017?

Throughout 2017, the Party celebrated our centenary, in which we sought to run a programme of events that looked forward as well as back. A particular highlight was marching our commemorative banner (designed and commissioned for the Centenary year) with friends from the trade union movement at Durham Miner’s Gala, and welcoming our newly elected Labour & Co-operative Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, to an exhibition of our history at the People’s History Museum.

Few of us will forget the culmination of the celebrations at our Centenary Conference in October, an historic occasion where 500 visitors and delegates were addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, the first elected Labour leader to speak at Co-op Party conference since Jim Callaghan.

There were also dozens of events organised by our members up and down the country to commemorate the Centenary from Cornwall, to Anglesey to Perth. 2017 has seen our membership reach a modern high of 11,000.  There were over 350 local Co-operative Party meetings this year, which is the equivalent of one a day.

June’s snap General Election saw members campaigning up and down the country for the election of Labour & Co-operative MPs, having already worked tirelessly in May’s local and mayoral elections. We were proud to stand with Labour on a manifesto that committed the next Labour & Co-operative government to doubling the size of the co-operative sector. More than 1.3 million people voted for a Co-operative candidate in June, securing the election of 38 MPs – the largest number in our history.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Having secured a commitment to doubling the size of the co-operative sector in Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto, we’ll be developing plans to make that ambition a reality.  We’ll be working with the movement to identify opportunities for growth and to remove the barriers that hold co-operation back, as well as setting out the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for accountable public ownership in key areas including transport and utilities.

We’re also looking forward to an important set of  local elections in May, in which we’re hopeful of significant increases in councillors in London and in other major cities across England. The work of councils such as Preston show the huge value that co-operators in local government can bring.

What challenges does the Party face in 2018?

The Co-operative Party is working with our elected representatives to understand and mitigate the challenges and uncertainties Brexit poses for the co-operative sector, as well as seeking to ensure that co-operative values and approaches have an important role to play in Britain after March 2019.

Equally, we’re acutely aware of the very real consequences of economic uncertainty, falling living standards and low productivity for millions of people. That’s why we’re continuing to champion co-operative and employee ownership as a means to ensure that our economy’s rewards, as well as risks, are fairly shared.