Today we have written to all the Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership contenders with a simple question: ‘why should co-operators give you their support?’ We look forward to being able to share their answers to our members and supporters.

The Co-operative Party, the political party of the co-operative movement, has been in partnership with Labour for almost a hundred years. Over that century, just as political historians point to a small number of decisive elections which have changed the country’s direction, so too have there been some defining moments for the future of the left. Labour’s leadership contest is one of those rare moments where the choices made now will shape the Party for years to come, and it is clear that the Party and wider movement have a huge appetite for answering the questions posed to it by the electorate over the last four General Elections.

As sister Parties, the thousands of Co-operative Party members and tens of thousands of supporters are often Labour Party members too. These members and supporters demonstrate the power, attraction of the coherence of our co-operative values and principles. Like many of us when it comes to making the case for candidates within their CLPs, friendship circles and WhatsApp groups, I am sure they will want a clearer idea of the next generation of Labour Leaders’ co-operative vision – both in terms of their co-operative ideas as well as how they hope to strengthen the relationship with the co-operative movement’s political party.

The Co-operative Party has been part of Labour’s broad church longer than most of us have been alive, and we fervently believe that this church is strongest when its constituent parts are valued parts of the congregation – not just on the value of what they contribute when the plate is passed round but on the experience, richness and ideas they bring to the community.

Like me, I suspect co-operators were heartened by the ambition of policy commitments made over recent years, the focal point of which was a serious commitment to work to double the size of the co-operative sector. Ahead of the last election we wrote extensively about this, and most recently in Tribune we pointed to the societal and economic benefits that this would bring about.

However, we believe there is scope to be more ambitious, and that there is much more to learn from the ideas, people and co-operatives we seek to faithfully represent. Their example points to the way forward for a fairer economy where wealth and power are shared, and where communities and activists are empowered to make change happen from the bottom up.

Co-operators, like-minded people and projects bring something unique to their communities and the wider economy. I believe that co-operation and our practical and living movement show an important way forward for the left. A way forward based on agency, fair treatment of others, collective strength, the importance of common ownership and co-operative community building.

Since December there have been a range of challenges laid out by commentators and Labour futurologists. Some of this has centred upon the need to earn trust; to build genuine relationships in every community; to develop an enabling policy framework; and to demonstrate a wider value and narrative around the importance of common ownership.

Given this and other challenges in front of us we believe that our co-operative values, principles and action have a vital place in the market for answers and part of the future path for the Labour Party. Co-operators are always looking to work with others to help build the vision of their co-operative endeavour and in turn the type of society they wish to see.

Good pieces put up by others such as Phil Jones in the Guardian and our Parliamentary Group Chair Jim McMahon’s on Labourlist have started to set out some of what we think working together could look like, but we hope that, through the coming period and when the results of this important contest are announced, co-operation and co-operators have a bright future to look forward to as we build towards Government once again.