Jim McMahon Chair of the Co-operative Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7th November 2022 Blog Share Tweet Since the summer the Co-operative Party has continued to play an active and effective role in championing our movement and the solutions it can bring to the challenges we face. Conferences Our Annual Conference returned in-person for the first time since 2019, as co-operators met in Leeds for a fantastic programme of speakers, debates, fringes, and campaign sessions. It was a great opportunity to bring members and supporters together and our programme gave us a chance to platform voices and experiences from right across the UK as we looked at how we can best apply our co-operative ideas and solutions in the weeks and months to come. Alongside members, co-operative businesses and retail societies, charities, activists, campaign groups, community organisations and elected representatives, we also heard from Sir Keir Starmer MP; First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford MS; Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves MP; Shadow Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Lisa Nandy MP; Shadow International Development Secretary Preet Kaur Gill MP; Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting MP; and so many more. The Annual Conference was a hub of people making their important contributions to the continued progress of our Party and movement – including a significant commitment from the Shadow Chancellor to double to size of the co-operative sector under the next Labour and Co-operative government. I want to say a huge thank you to Co-operative Party staff for their hard work in organising the event and ensuring our first return to an in-person Annual Conference was a great success. If you missed out, you can catch up on some of the keynote speeches here. This wasn’t our only Conference activity over the recent few weeks either, with a strong co-operative presence at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool ensuring we were able to cover issues like the case for co-operative growth, food insecurity, fair tax and tackling dirty money, and secure communities. And our member-led equalities networks our ‘Building Equality for All’ Equalities Conference brought together co-operators to focus on issues such as the cost-of-living crisis’ impact on minorities, removing barriers to representation, and on how we tackle hate crime. Placed in the context of our year-round activity of regular online events, campaign sessions, Co-op Live members’ meetings, and both regional and national conferences, I’m delighted our consistent engagement with members and supporters makes us one of the most interactive movements and political parties in the country. Campaigning Outside of Conferences, whilst the Government has been in turmoil and lurching from crisis to crisis, we have remained laser-focused on what really matters, and our campaigning work has continued in earnest. When it comes to the cost-of-living crisis, for instance, we’ve continued our work on food justice and ensuring everyone has access to good quality, affordable food. We’re continuing to help drive up levels of Healthy Start Voucher use, have called for government to do more to ensure the value of the vouchers isn’t eroded by inflation, and renewed our efforts with local authorities to establish local partnerships and action to address hunger. We’re also continuing to champion our movement’s solutions to tackling rising energy bills and energy insecurity, by making the case for greater community and co-operatively-owned energy initiatives. And by working alongside local members, parties and community groups to promote home upgrades, we can ensure co-operatives are playing an important role in improving housing standards and reducing household energy bills. We’ve also opposed the Government’s potentially damaging reclassification of Modern Slavery within the Home Office, added more councils to our Fair Tax Declaration, reiterated our efforts to tackling economic crime, outlined the role for co-operative solutions for children in care, made the case for support for growth in employee ownership and much more. Legislation Here in Westminster, we’ve been active and engaged on ensuring on ensuring the priorities of our Party and movement are reflected in legislation, too. Co-operative MP Sir Mark Hendrick has brought forward his Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Private Members Bill, which seeks to offer greater protection for co-operatives and mutuals against demutualisation and helps grow the sector. This is a vital proposal which has passed its Second Reading, and one we look forward to continuing our support on alongside over 1,000 Co-operative Party members who have already contacted their MP encouraging them to do the same. We’ve also proposed amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Bill which would encourage proper recognition of the co-operative movement’s contribution to the economy and encourage its growth, whilst in the Energy Prices Bill we successfully supported efforts to secure a government commitment to an exemption from the revenue cap for co-operative and community-owned energy generators which will allow them to continue making a vital contribution to tackling our energy crisis. Looking Forward Throughout all of this work, the Party is also looking ahead at how we can be effective in addressing the challenges in the near future, too. Foremost amongst this is the Government’s delayed financial statement, as it looks to get to grips on soaring inflation and rising interest rates that are continuing to push up prices and mortgages for people right across the UK. And as the Bank of England confirms the UK is now in recession, it is critical our Party continues to outline the difference our movement can make in alleviating the effects this will have on the every day lives of people across the country. And in looking to the future, we’re already putting ourselves in the best possible position to build on the success we achieved in last year’s elections, and continue to grow our levels of representation. Ahead of May’s elections, for instance, we already have over 500 co-operators signed-up to become future council candidates. And as calls for a General Election mount, the number of official Co-operative candidates nominated in Westminster selections continues to grow, alongside those candidates from right across the country who have been chosen by co-operative members in local nominations. I’m proud that, despite the successes of the year so far, the Co-operative Party and wider movement has shown no sign of resting on our laurels. On the contrary, with mounting crises and people’s lives getting more and more difficult in so many ways, I’m proud that our Party and movement is rising to challenge, building on successes already achieved, and offering practical ideas, values and solutions when they’re needed most.