Recently I’ve made much of the Co-operative Party’s important preparation for the upcoming elections, and now with under a month to go I’m delighted to see the campaigning ramped up in earnest.

The week before last, for instance, saw the launch of our 2021 election campaign in full that brought together candidates at all levels from across the country, and the first of our regular ‘Call for Co-operation’ members’ phone bank sessions also kicked off.

These events also shone a light on the sheer number of Co-operative Party candidates now standing in the elections, who are making sure our Party and its values are represented in strength in communities – including many seats for perhaps the first time.

Overall, we have over 800 candidates standing in over 900 seats, with nearly 90 percent of the electorate having a Co-operative Party candidate on the ballot paper in under three weeks’ time.

I am so proud of the work that is been doing to make sure co-operation is front and centre over the next few weeks, and it’s a real testament to the growth and ambition of our Party that we are now standing the highest number of election candidates in the Party’s history.

Many feel that politics is distant and can’t achieve real change. Only by politics rooted in community with practical action to tackle to the issues our communities face can we win back trust. It is happening across the country with co-operative members and candidates living our values.

I look forward to joining our candidates on the campaign trail over the coming weeks, and I encourage everyone to get involved too and do all they can to ensure that come May 7th there are strong co-operative voices where the decisions that affect us all are made.

But as I’ve said before, as well as the huge numbers of candidates representing our Party and movement in the coming weeks it’s also essential they – and indeed we all – have the tools as co-operators to make a real difference in our communities on the ground.

One way in which this has been done is the recent launch of the Co-operative Party’s Food Justice Finder Healthy Start Voucher tool, which allows us to all take action on to address food injustice.

Research by the Party has revealed that ahead of the April uplift to the vital Healthy Start Voucher scheme that allows pregnant and vulnerable people to get free fruit, vegetables, milk and other essentials, there were 257,661 people eligible for Healthy Start vouchers who did not claim them.

This could result in over £1m a week in free food going unclaimed, and at a time of increased economic insecurity average take up of the vouchers has actually fallen to around 50% in the last 12 months.

The Party’s Food Justice Finder is a vital tool in allowing us all to tackle this injustice, check the scheme uptake in our own community, and encourage our local authorities to take action and do more.

As a movement we have always taken pride in taking action and making a difference where it counts, and in tools like this developed by the Party we all have a way of doing just that.

So between campaigns like those on food justice and our efforts to help ensure Co-operative candidates are elected on May 6th, the coming weeks are a vital opportunity to demonstrate just what a force for good the Co-operative Party can be.