The Co-operative Party: ‘How our values will shape the next Labour government’

Nearly a hundred years ago, the Co-operative Party entered into an electoral agreement with the Labour Party, meaning that the two parties would stand joint candidates. In 2024, roughly one in every five elected Labour elected representatives at all levels of government represent both the Labour and Co-operative Parties. This number, just shy of 1600, has tripled in the last six years.

The Party was founded some years before the electoral agreement, in 1917. The key mission of the Party is the same today as it was when it was founded: ‘to promote and defend the values of the co-operative movement’. In addition to its co-operative retail society members, in recent years the Party has been able fulfil this mission armed with a record high individual membership as the fastest growing UK political party since 2019, new organisational members such as trades unions (including Unison Labour Link, Community Union and USDAW), as well as tens of thousands of supporters.

This increased strength paired with the hard work of Co-operative politicians has seen the Party achieve significant campaigning wins on its key campaigns in recent years. We have worked to ensure over 150 councils have moved beyond their statutory duties in relation to the horror of modern slavery. The Party has mobilised tens of thousands to bring pressure on issues such as the Household Support Fund, retail crime, food justice and against the management’s proposed demutualisation of LV=, amongst much more.

Whilst one in three members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are members of the Co-op Party, a smaller number have been selected to be official Labour & Co-operative Parliamentarians. This Parliamentary Group is well represented in the Shadow Cabinet and in shadow ministerial roles. Ahead of the next General Election, the Party has almost fifty official candidates and all indications are that the Party could have an historic high number of Parliamentarians post-election.

2024 will see the Co-operative Party growing in electoral strength whether there is a general election or not. The Party will be standing hundreds of candidates in local elections. The last three years have seen over 1,000 candidates stand each year and to have strong co-operative representation in local government is incredibly important to us. Our councillors’ work has well demonstrated what the co-operative difference can look like. In addition, the Party will stand nearly 20 Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, new Metro Mayor candidates to add to Co-operative Mayors such as Tracy Brabin, Andy Burnham and Oliver Coppard, and a majority of GLA candidates. The Party will be working hard to support them ahead of the elections and after.

The values and principles which sit behind co-operatives and co-operation give the Party a world view that inspires its wide-ranging domestic policy platform.

The UK co-operative movement now contributes 38bn per year to GDP and in the UK, 7,500 co-operatives have tens of millions of members who are either customers or employees – and collectively own the organisations which are important to them. Given that co-operatives are more than twice as resilient as other businesses as well as being more productive, tackling inequality and spreading ownership, it is no surprise the Co-operative Party is fundamentally ambitious for the sector’s growth.

Within the Labour Party and to the wider public, the Co-operative Party promotes a range of policies that will build a more co-operative country. One overarching ambition which it promotes is that the next Government should set out to double the size of the sector. In addition, ahead of the next election, the Party will be campaigning for the rapid expansion of community ownership on high streets across the country – this is something the Labour Party has set out in its plans in this area, which include strengthened localism powers and a new ‘Community Right to Buy’.

Working with co-operative retail societies and USDAW, the Party has also given a focus on the desperate need to tackle violence against retail workers and retail crime – this is an issue the Party has campaigned on for a number of years. Ahead of this election and alongside the Labour Party, the Co-operative Party will campaign for this to be given greater priority by establishing a standalone offence of assaulting a shopworker.

The Co-operative Party believes the additional benefits of community-owned renewable energy production should be properly realised in the country’s transition to net zero. Again, the Labour Party has found common ground with its sister Party. Labour’s Local Power Plan sets out a plan to invest significant sums to generate 8GW of community-owned energy, which will create one million new owners of energy across the country.

I believe we have a unique outlook on politics, and our voice and solutions are needed now maybe more than ever. Ours is a vision of a society and economy in which people’s voices are heard, institutions and services are accountable to their users and staff, and ownership and wealth are shared more widely. From community ownership of energy to fan-owned football clubs, co-operators believe everyone should have a say and stake in our economy and our country. As the Chair of the first Co-operative Party meeting once said: “there are things to safeguard, things to stand for and things achieve.” That statement rings true as ever today. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.