One of the joys of being re-elected in June 2017 is having been able to resume my close relationship with the wider Co-operative movement.

Although I was a Co-operative councillor in the interim, the role of MP opens many more doors and gives countless opportunities.

We have a small but very active Co-operative Party in the Stroud constituency. Recently, for example, we organised a well-attended conference on health policy, and we hope to hold one on education in the near future. The role of co-operators is both to stimulate debate and to encourage others, especially in the Labour Party, to consider co-operative solutions to problems and encourage co-operative endeavour wherever possible.

I am fortunate to be a member of the very well-run Midcounties Co-operative. In Stroud there are interesting and successful co-operatives involved in retail, childcare and agriculture through to print-making, running certain institutions, and even some aspects of engineering. We are very active in the social economy, with a strong credit union and advice and other related services.

In the commercial sector, Stroud has a clutch of volunteer-run village shops which help keep those communities alive. With the enormous cutbacks in local-government spending, the voluntary, social enterprise and co-operative sectors have had to take the strain.

There is a lot more we can and should be doing, including building a legislative framework that is friendlier to co-operatives. Having taken on Opposition front-bench responsibilities for farming, food and rural affairs it is clear that, although co-operation already has a strong footprint in these areas, there is plenty of room for it to grow and diversify.

In the current parliament, once we cut through the Gordian knot of Brexit, real progress could be accomplished if we as co-operators can organise effectively. I for one will take every opportunity to help ensure that co-operation is embedded within the forthcoming Agriculture Bill and if, as I hope, my colleagues take a similar approach in their specialist areas, then we really could see the increased influence of co-operation and co-operatives within the UK.

For all of us who share this vision, it can’t come a moment too soon.