Ways Forward 6 Conference: Co-operative Solidarity – 16 Feb

We’ve been asked to let readers know about an event coming up soon at Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JQ.



On Friday 16 February from 9.45am – 4.30pm, co-operatives will gather to take up Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge of providing a clear strategy to create a dynamic, sustainable co-operative Britain. 

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey will be keynote speaker at the 2018 ‘Ways Forward 6’ conference, an annual event organised by Co-operative Business Consultants – a co-operative consortium of individuals and organisations committed to social justice through solidarity co-ops.

The event brings co-operative representatives and consultants from across the country together with trades unionists and social entrepreneurs to develop a framework for building a co-operative economy.

Delegates have been asked to rise to the challenge laid down by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who commented recently: “I want the public ownership of water, Royal Mail and energy, but I don’t want it to be necessarily a huge state model. I’d rather there was a co-op principle in the way it is run.” and who challenged, “the wider co-operative movement to come forward with your ideas, your enthusiasm, your energy.”

Sponsors of the conference include leading organisations in the co-operative movement, including the Co-operative Party and the co-operative umbrella organisation, Co-operatives UK, reflecting the widespread belief that the British economy is in permanent crisis and cannot solve its productivity malaise without the conscious democratic involvement of employees and consumers in the running of industry, commerce and public services.

The Ways Forward conferences originated in the crisis of the Co-op Group and Bank in 2014 when it was felt that the situation was so important that it required urgent discussion by the co-operative movement and the left as a whole. The conference was a success and since 2014 Co-operative Business Consultants has organised the annual non profit-making event to keep alight the flame of open, honest and frank discussion regarding the major issues facing the co-operative movement.

Past keynote speakers include John McDonnell, Ken Loach, Matt Wrack (FBU Gen Secretary), Angela Rayner and Sheila Coleman (Hillsborough Campaign and Unite).

This year’s conference focuses on discussing how co-operative methods can be adapted and developed as part of Labour’s focus on co-operation as a key part of its economic development proposals – especially regarding national industries such as energy. Trade union involvement will be crucial if this plan is to bear fruit.

For further details or media passes contact Jo Bird jo@cbc.coop 079700 75704.

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  1. I’m a member of the Coop and Cooperative Party and a JC supporter. Perhaps we could have public transport on the buses run by councils (or Coops particularly in rural areas). Have been thinking about homelessness lately and there seems to be people on practically every street in my city centre. I read about I think California and Copenhagen and people there had the brilliant idea of individual wooden huts for the homeless each with their own locks.. Reading from homeless agencies I learnt that they would be best to be very basic – just a space to sleep on and no furniture or anything with jagged edges in case of self-harm. The problem with the homeless is perhaps we try to cater for them together when some want to perhaps be away from potential negative influences. Individual homeless huts could be explored – and council workers and vans could deliver these and ask people if they wanted a hut tonight? But because of Tory cuts councils are starved of money so what about it social entrepreneurs out there – Coops for HUTS 4 THE HOMELESS? X

    1. I agree with the idea of cooperatives in companies to democratise the workplace.

      My objection to the Cooperative Party is that it only has 10,000 members yet has 700 councillors and 38 MPs. The Labour Party’s 600,000 members seem to be canvassing for and funding to return Cooperative Party MPs and councillors. It just doesn’t make any sense at all. We should be focussing our efforts and cash on returning Labour MPs.

      That disproportionate representation of the smallest political party in the country is the largest single democratic deficit in the Labour Party today. I believe this issue needs to be addressed in the Labour Party’s democracy review.

      The Cooperative Party has some good ideas but the Labour Party doesn’t need to have an electoral agreement with the Cooperative Party to implement those policies.

      1. If we were starting from scratch the idea of a junior partner gaining so much for so little wouldn’t fly.
        Starting from here though don’t we have to acknowledge that Co-op MPs & councillors have a certain value by virtue (!) of the inertia of the electorate?
        Wouldn’t want to lose an election to a coalition of Tories and a handful of Co-ops aggrieved at being dumped.

      2. Hi David,

        As they stand using Labour branding the electorate don’t even realise they are voting to return Cooperative councillors and MPs, which is something of a deception as people will be thinking they are voting for the Labour manifesto, not the Cooperative manifesto.

        When the electoral agreement was entered into early in the last century it was to avoid splitting the vote.

        As the Cooperative Party only has 10,000 members to campaign with and hardly any cash I don’t think that reasoning is no longer sound.

        On its own, it is highly probable that the Cooperative Party would be lucky to return as many MPs as the Liberal Democrats. That would mean they would most likely need to follow the Labour line more closely to have any influence on a Labour Government.

        I just don’t see any benefit whatsoever to the Labour Party of having an electoral agreement with the Cooperative Party. In fact I think it undermines the interests of Labour to continue with the agreement.

  2. The debate should be to take these industries back into public ownership not to tinker with ideas about cooperation, these industries need financial resources and only the state can fund that.

    There was little wrong with the old nationalised, if we are to tinker about then lets elect the directors of the board every three years from within the ranks of the company, representing most departments within the organisation. Guaranteeing worker participation.

    The reasons the nationalised industries suffered in the seventies was the deliberate fixing arrangements by the Tories to enable them to transfer it all into the private sector. They were set up and run to make profits that were returned to the exchequer and not reinvested back into the industry.

    It’s all here in this Nicholas Ridley document from 1977:


    1. This is the main problem with the Cooperative Party.

      It is in favour of mutualisation, not nationalisation.

      That directly contradicts the policy of the Labour Party.

      It is not in the interests of the Labour Party to return Cooperative MPs who do not agree with a key policy of the next Labour government’s programme. By doing so we are effectively creating a built in opposition to the party’s programme.

      For this reason and for the reasons I stated above, I think the electoral agreement between the Labour Party and Cooperative Party should be terminated.

      There is a 12 month notice period contained within the agreement that would allow us to do this.

  3. I am somewhat sceptical of the intentions of the Co-op Party within Labour for the reasons so well outlined by Internal Affairs above .
    I am a whole hearted believer in Nationalisation for the key industries/services in this country and not for mutualisation , thus I’d prefer that the Co-op party either adopts wholey the policies of Labour or stands out on it’s own merits .

    There is a job to do and that is removing the Tories from office ASAP and Labour cannot afford to be seen to be divided in the public eye , perhaps the CO-op party would do well to integrate and just simply become Labour .

  4. One Socialist step forward for Labour, hopefully, not the only one and not one which can be easily circumvented by speculators, the filthy rich and powerful who control both Parliament and the, so called, free markets! These are the types who are all close friends of the Tory Party and every Socialist step we take will be bitterly fought with every means in their power! They know nothing of genuine democracy and therefore they must be fought by every means necessary! Among the ways is for all cooperatives to be decentralised economic models which are actively owned by their employees and the communities which they serve! No rich need apply as they’ve had ownership of everything in the UK for at least 300 years of Capitalism and look what a mess they have made of it!

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