Much of the attention of the political world recently has been on the behaviour of the Government in Westminster, as the fallout from the Prime Minister’s behaviour during the lockdown restrictions continues.

But aside from the personal impact on the Prime Minister’s position, the wave of mass resignations, internal splits and continued controversy in the Government have served only to incumber it into a form of stasis, too concerned with defending the indefensible to properly address the mounting crises facing people right across the UK.

In their stead, I’m delighted the Co-operative Party has continued its tradition of making a real difference in our communities, and actively offering solutions to some of these challenges.
On the cost of living, for instance, soaring prices and bills risk plunging many more into a desperate situation, but the Party’s emphasis on food justice continues to draw attention to what an impact this could have on access to food, and our campaign will continue ensure as many people as possible have access to good, healthy food.

When it comes to our town centres and local communities, the Party’s ‘Unlock the High Street’ campaign continues to engage our members to make a real difference in their areas, and offer co-operative solutions to how we revitalise the local places we depend on most.

Our campaigns have continued in earnest on other issues, too; such as protecting great British institutions like the BBC and Channel 4, and working in Westminster and with members across the UK to successfully prevent the sell-off the mutual insurer LV= to a US venture capital giant.

And as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I’m proud our Party has brought together thousands of people to object to the use of damaging pesticides that could have a devastating impact on our ecosystem and biodiversity, and provide co-operative ideas and solutions to the challenges in rural and coastal communities as part of our review.

These campaigns, ideas and more have all been on show as we’ve kicked off our conference programme for the year. Already we’ve heard from politicians, campaigners, and co-operators on what they’re doing to make a co-operative difference, including the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford AM and many others in our conferences from Wales, and London, the South East and East of England, with more soon to follow.

And as a Party we’re continuing to grow, too.

Our membership is increasing, and with over 13,000 members we now have more than at any time in the Party’s history.

With significant elections coming up, we’re putting ourselves in the best possible position to increase the size of our political representation.

Over 800 candidates are already signed up to our Candidate Development Programme ahead of May’s local elections, whilst our Parliamentary Panel for Westminster elections is growing and candidates on each programme are able to access bespoke, tailored training and support – including recently on tackling antisemitism from JLM.

But as I’ve said before, this is about more than just numbers. With each new member, and each new candidate for election, this growth allows us to better represent the co-operative movement, better offer co-operative solutions and ideas, and better champion the benefits we know they can bring.

At a critical time when the Government is distracted elsewhere, our ability to continue doing this effectively has never been needed more.