On Saturday, Sussex Co-operative Party held its Annual General Meeting in Lewes. The Co-operative Party is one of British Politics’ best kept secrets: the party has representatives at every level of British Government, including the third largest number of MPs in the House of Commons and the largest block of councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council, and yet most people have never heard of it.
The reason for this is that the party is hidden in plain sight. The Co-op Party is the Labour Party’s sister party and every Co-op representative must also a Labour representative. While most Co-op Party members are also Labour members, they don’t have to be but they can’t be a member of any other political party. I myself have been a member of the party for many years.
The Co-operative Party holds many values in common with Labour, but retains an added emphasis on the importance of bringing a Co-operative approach to our political economy, something which finds increasing sympathy in recent debates within the Labour Party around devolution, not simply to local government but to the people it serves.
In addition to providing an opportunity to go through the formal annual business of the party, hearing about relevant developments, catching-up with old comrades and enjoying a good lunch (a particularly important area of focus for me, having cycled there) we had the chance to hear from one of the party’s new MPs: Brighton and Kemptown MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.
Lloyd highlighted a range of areas of interest to us in our role as Co-operators and provided an impressively detailed account of the complexities of the party’s approach to Brexit. While the party’s new intake has had little over a month to prepare for their role, the level of energy and determination they have brought to their new role has been hugely impressive and gives great cause for optimism for the party’s future.