At the launch of the Co-operative Party’s “Co-operative Capital” pamphlet of essays on Tuesday 9th September, it seemed that the Party’s message had been inspired by the immortal words of Vanilla Ice’s hit ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Collaboration with, and close consultation of, the communities that local councils govern was hailed as the way to improve public services and engagement at a time of huge spending cuts.
The Co-operative Party, founded in 1917, aims to promote co-operative and mutual forms of organisation, working in partnership with Labour. ‘Politics for the people’ underlines its ethos that working together will achieve more than working alone.
Launched just nine months before the general election, and a year before the London Mayoral Elections, there is a good chance the ideas in this pamphlet could affect both Labour’s 2015 general election manifesto and the campaign for London Mayor. The pamphlet is a series of short essays on a variety of topics including transport, childcare, housing and healthcare emerged from a conversation between Gareth Thomas MP and Steve Reed MP on how London can become a more engaged community.
If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it
The problem of transport was covered by Val Shawcross, whose approach appeared to take Vanilla Ice’s infamous words to heart. She urged the Government to stop the imbalance of resources between boroughs. Instead, local councils should collaborate with Transport for London to devolve power back to the residents and local government and listen to the concerns of their passengers.
Quick to the point, no faking
Given the presence of two rumoured candidates for the Mayor of London election, Tessa Jowell and David Lammy, it is perhaps no surprise that discussion centred on the housing crisis and included discussion of London Mayor, Boris Johnson’s ‘affordable’ housing schemes. David Lammy took the limelight on this particular issue and encouraged no faking in the design of housing schemes that echo the residents’ needs and desires. Lib Peck also backed the idea of no faking as she spoke of being honest about the scale of cuts local governments face and the transparency that must exist.
My town, that created all the bass sound
Lambeth Council Leader, Lib Peck, spoke of the pride she takes in her town and the Labour Co-operative run-council. Lambeth could well be hailed as the borough that created all the bass sound as it became the first Labour Co-op council in 2006, then under the leadership of Steve Reed, who edited this pamphlet. She particularly highlighted the Digi Buddies scheme that aims to resolve the issue of IT literacy. The scheme pairs those in need of developing IT skills with people who already have those skills and is a good example of using the existing community’s skills for mutual benefit.
Take heed, ‘cause I’m a lyrical poet
It remains to be seen whether Labour will take heed of the arguments put forth by the Co-operative Party. It requires a new approach to communication and must ensure engagement of all of the community, not just the loudest voices.