Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Posts Tagged ‘Co-Op’

CO-OPERATION! The Co-operative Party celebrates its centenary

In A.Graham on July 4, 2017 at 12:29 pm

by Alistair Graham

This year marks the centenary of the foundation of the Co-operative Party. It was born in 1917, in the uncertain years of the First World War, as the conflict was dragging towards its bloody conclusion.

But its roots were sown in earlier years, the years before war engulfed Europe. The co-operative movement was growing rapidly – but the Liberal government was hardly sympathetic to this new movement. Many co-operators believed that it needed a political voice to represent the movement – in Parliament if need be.

There were those who opposed this view, of course. Those who argued that the movement was made up of members of various political (and indeed religious) views. At an early meeting of the Co-operative Congress in 1897 a motion was passed supporting direct representation in Parliament – but such was the lack of any enthusiasm, it was reversed in 1900.

But the issue wouldn’t go away. It was probably the position of the Liberal Government that was in power during the years leading up to the First World War that was a deciding factor. The Liberals may have been the “shopkeepers’ friend” – but this new, strange concept of co-operation was a different matter altogether.

The Liberal Government was definitely hostile to the ideals of co-operation. The notion of sharing out “surplus value” amongst members and giving them a say in how the Co-op was run, was definitely an alien concept. As for the Tories – well, let’s not go down that road!

All this led to the Co-operative Congress of 1917, held in Swansea, passing a resolution that stated the Co-op Movement should have direct representation in Parliament in order to safeguard its interests. There was some opposition of course, but it was passed overwhelmingly.

Success for the new Co-operative Party was slow in coming. The first Co-op candidate to win a seat was A.E. Waterson in Kettering in 1918 – and he soon lost it again (albeit narrowly). .

In 1922, the party won four seats, including that of A.V. Alexander (who went on to become leader of the group in the Commons). Meanwhile, the strength of the Labour Party was growing, and finally the two parties reached a joint agreement.

In more recent years the Co-operative Party has continued to function as an independent body, with its own conferences and policy making bodies. But as for the candidates there has been a tendency for those who stand as “Labour Co-op” candidates to be seen as merely Labour by the electorate.

(Member of the Co-operative Party and the Mid-counties Co-op Society.

A.V. ALEXANDER: A co-operator in Parliament – and outside.

Albert Victor Alexander rose through the Co-operative movement to become the Co-op MP for Sheffield Hillsborough in 1922./ At the time he was one of just four Co-op MPs, but he was to hold his seat (with one short break in the’30s) until 1950.

He became leader of the Co-op parliamentary group and at one time he was a Minister in the in Labour Government of Ramsay Macdonald. But he opposed the cuts introduced in the late 1920s (particularly the cuts in unemployment benefits). He lost his seat in the 1931 election, winning it back in 1933, and resumed his position as leader of the Co-operative Parliamentary group.

In 1950 he retired from the Commons to take up his seat in the House of Lords. Here he continued to represent the cause of co-operation until his death in 1965 at the age of 79.


MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on May 3, 2016 at 4:39 pm

A surreptitious sharpening of knives:

dinosaurThere are those in the Parliamentary Labour Party who refuse to accept the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party fair and square. They act as though their exclusive little club had been invaded by an uncouth outsider and go out of their way to make it difficult for Labour to function as a cohesive opposition in the Commons.

Few of them, though, go so far as to advocate openly outright rebellion. They prefer to throw their toys out of their play pen. Or sit in the corner and sulk. But it seems there are those who are ready to plot a coup in the party.

An interesting, if somewhat incoherent, piece appeared in the Daily Telegraph in early March by one Tom Harris, an unreformed and unrepentant Blairite.  He’s all for mounting a coup to oust the “selfie-loving Corbynite radicals” (sic). And he’s nominated  deputy leader Tom Watson to lead the rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn.

Why Tom Watson, I hear you ask?  Well, according to Harris , it was Watson who master-minded the plot that got rid of Blair and replaced him with Gordon Brown. A politician capable of achieving that should have no difficulty in master-minding a coup against Corbyn. Well that seems to be the logic behind this rather rambling article aired in the Telegraph.

I must say that I was completely unaware of such a plot to get rid of Blair – but us dinosaurs do tend to be a bit naïve. We just don’t live in the world of plots and counter-plots .

Of course there’s no evidence to suggest that Tom Watson has the slightest inclination to attempt such an act. And such fanciful  notions don’t take into account the reaction of  Labour’s membership. But then, of course, the Blairites never did.

Remember the BNP?

Remember the British National Party?  The far right, racist party that seemed to be making such an impact a decade or so ago?  Then it imploded and seemed to disappear from the scene.

Well it seems it’s still with us, just about. It’s putting up the odd candidate or two – including one in the contest for London mayor. Its slogan seems to be “don’t vote for a Muslim Mayor!”

But an interesting news item recently revealed that the party had come into some money. £180,000 had been left to the BNP by two members who had died and left the money in their wills.

The organisation “Hope Not Hate” has accused the BNP of gaining money through “coffin chasing”.

Life in the fast lane.

The name of Adrian Beecroft  isn’t perhaps very well-known – unless you’re in the heady world of hedge fund banking and the like.

He’s currently part of the financial set up that controls Wonga. But before that he was “chief investment officer” for a venture capital financial outfit called Apex.

One of his acquisitions was that of the supermarket chain, Somerfield. Somerfield, it seemed, had run into difficulty after it took over KwikSave. Merging the two concerns had cost more than had been bargained for.

Mr. Beecroft was able to acquire Somerfield in 2005 – and then, in 2009, it sold it on to the Co-operative Group at a handsome profit.  Apex did very well out of it, the Co-op did less so. Now many of the Co-op’s former Somerfield stores have been sold on (like the one in Chepstow, for example), in order to finance its growth in the smaller convenience store sector.

Incidentally, Mr Beecroft has donated more than £500,000 to the Tory Party since 2006.


MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on November 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

Caught up in the NATO circus:

Well, the NATO summit jamboree in Newport has been and gone. The delegates have departed, the high security fences have been taken away, along with all those spooky black-uniformed cops.

I confess that I missed much of it. Whilst the delegates plus their entourages were flying in to Bristol airport, we were flying out – for a brief visit to Denmark to see family.

At the airport we failed to  see any of the delegates, so I wasn’t able to ask for any autographs. They were kept safely away in a separate part of the terminal.  But the place was still chock-a-block with police. No “low profile” for them it seems. Unlike me. I tried to mingle unobtrusively.

Whilst we were waiting for our Easyjet flight to Copenhagen, though, I did accidentally bump in to one large gun-toting cop. Briefly I felt cold metal jab into my ribs. I stuttered a quick apology and fled.

Meanwhile, our MP Mark Harper has described NATO as a force for “peace”. It’s no such thing of course. It was a product of the Cold War, an alliance of western powers to present a common armed response to the “Soviet threat”. In response, the other side formed the Warsaw Pact – and a dangerous nuclear arms race was initiated.

With the collapse of the USSR, any perceived need for NATO disappeared, one would’ve thought, into oblivion. It should have been quietly retired, but instead its backers have turned into a kind of roving police force ready to act on behalf of  its sponsors, wherever the fancy takes them

Having it in for the Co-op:

I was gob-smacked when I saw the front page of the Citizen back at the end of August.

Taking up the whole page was a piece headlined in red, “194,000”.  That, it said, was the “bill so far as council fends off Co-op’s Asda challenge.”

Beneath the headline was an artist’s picture of the giant Asda megastore planned for Cinderford. I don’t know how other folk reacted, but it scared me. Asda don’t build small. And it takes no prisoners.

It seems that the Citizen is telling us that it’s the Co-op’s fault that all this taxpayers’ cash has been spent.   In other words, the Co-op is not entitled to fight its corner against a giant that threatens the whole shopping centre of Cinderford.  After all, it’s not only the Co-op’s future that’s at stake, but also all the smaller convenience stores or speciality shops that exist in town.

In Cinderford, the Midcounties Co-op won its legal battle, at least for now. But as far as the District Council’s concerned, they could have saved all this money by not backing Asda’s application  in the first place.

Who’s paying for those deep-fried Mars Bars??

One of the more ludicrous attacks on the Scots’ independence campaign came from Nadine Dorries, Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire. In the Sun newspaper (where else?), she asked, “Why are we paying them (ie the Scots) to eat deep-fried Mars bars when we can’t even get decent healthcare in this country?

Personally I think this image of obese Scots all tucking into deep-fried Mars bars is a bit of an urban myth, But what I think Ms. Dorries is getting at is that “we” are having to pay for them all to be treated under the NHS.

But of course Scotland has its own Health Service – and how much deep-fried Mars bars addicts cost to be treated is, I feel, an unknown quantity. Rather low down on the list of priorities, I reckon. But Nadine Dorries told the Sun that as a story “it’s going to be explosive”. Rather like a damp squib, perhaps?

Incidentally, I noticed that Glasgow (alleged home of the deep fried Mars bar) voted by 55 per cent to 45 for independence in the referendum.  Edinburgh, though, voted the other way.

But I don’t think it had anything to do with Mars bars, deep-fried or otherwise.