Luke Pollard's address to the Coop Party Conference 2015

Luke_at_coop_conf-400x400.pngPlymouth Labour has been at Co-operative Party Conference talking up the achievements of Plymouth's Labour Council in delivering co-operative values. Luke Pollard, our Parliamentary Candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in May, delivered the closing address about mainstreaming co-operative values in future Labour policy locally and nationally.

 

The Co-operative Party Conference Closing Speech
Luke Pollard, Labour and Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport 20 September 2015


Conference, thank you.


I'm proud to have stood for Labour and the Cooperative Party in
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. I lost by 523 votes.

So close but so far. There are no prizes for second place.
That is why labour must win in 2020. We can't do that with more of the same or with a lurch to the right or the left. We win from the radical centre.

The Lib Dems at their conference today are saying that this is their moment. No, they are. But is it?

Our Parliamentary panel debate yesterday had more Labour and Co-operative MPs than their entire Parliamentary party.

Now is not their time. It's our time and the window of opportunity to seize this moment is limited and will close. It won't wait for us. We take the opportunity or we don't.

Conference, cooperative and mutual models' time has come. This is something you've heard lots today and yesterday. It is not enough saying now is our chance, we have to act on this opportunity.

So, where are we now?The Tory government will sell everything it can. They seek to lock Labour out of power by gerrymandering the boundaries and attacking

And Labour?

We have to reject the binary choice between free markets and state control. When public assets are owned by the state and not owned by the public that is called state ownership, not public ownership. We believe in genuine public ownership.

As a movement we are good at being more ethical, fairer and more open than other business models. Defined in opposition to get mainstream, we have become peripheral.

Conference, I don't believe in peripheral politics. I don't believe in niche politics. I believe in mainstreaming our beliefs and values.

All our speakers this weekend have spoken about the need to seize this moment. But at a time when our politics has never been so relevant our movement is under attack - and if we are honest - whether we kept it coop or not - our movement remains under threat.

More of the same is not acceptable, palatable or possible. I think we need to move away from this softer side of cooperation.
And to do that we need to provide a destination - a vision for Britain: and let me tell you what it is.

A mutual state, a cooperative Britain.

I believe in hard cooperation. And here is why you should. Hard cooperation says we should be mainstream not just peripheral.

No more peripheral niches but mainstream. Our values, not just accepted in small groups, but mainstreamed.

So let's apply this to our political challenges today.

For the public sector...

I want the Labour Party to say our primary economic model of
choice is mutualism.

Not a choice between state control or rampant free market but embracing cooperative values. Mainstream not peripheral.
Not being slightly nicer than the Tories in regulating markets.
Not believing the state always knows best.

Services nationalised, at great cost, to be held on ice for privatisation by the Tories later on. Nationalisation is no longer a safety deposit box, protected and secure. It means public assets held on ice to be cut, poked and privatised.

We know that. We see that. It is happening. And will happen again. So for all public services, I say this, not one model of mutualism but an application of our values and models crafted and related for every public service.

It means we don't just accept a peripheral role - a co-op here, a splash of mutualism there.

Hard cooperation, says:
- we mutualise the BBC
- we mutualise our schools network
- we mutualise the NHS
- We mutualise network rail - not sell it -- and mutualise the job centre too.

We create, as Stella Creasy suggests, a cooperate sovereign wealth fund to invest in infrastructure.

And a mutual Royal Mail.

If those services were secure in the public sector then would this be necessary? But we know they are not. They’re on the conveyor belt towards privatisation and we need to wake up and apply our values to it before it is too late.

Not only returning ownership to the people but pushing decision making towards people too.

So let's make our mission to have a policy destination: mutualisation as the Labour party's primary economic model
of choice.

Labour needs a new defining economic narrative, pro-business and fairer and more ethical. Hard cooperation is this model.
Hard choices, but bold and ambitious.

Why? It reflects the changed world we live in, the new technology and the fierce yearning of people to have more control over their own lives and a stake in the services and spending decisions affecting them.

But its grounded in the bitter truth of reality under the Tories too. You and I don't own the NHS. Did anyone ask you whether to privatise the NHS? No.

If you and I actually owned the NHS the Tories couldn't sell the NHS without our active consent.The lack of power is the new inequality - or to borrow from Dave Ward - the new virus and mutualism is it medicine.

In short, we can lock the Tories out of public services, by giving power, ownership and decision making to people for the very first time.

Mutualisation as a clear destination. Mainstream not peripheral. So, let’s apply that to the private sector.

If you had a spare £3billion you could renationalise South West Water. I don’t have a spare £3bn, do you? And if I did I want that spent on housing, mental health and jobs first. So, until we have that surplus let’s explore other options.

I want to see cooperative insurgencies created in every privatised utilities so staff and customers and members of public can build out over time a genuine cooperative share ownership.

Just as carpetbaggers took their values of rampant capitalism and did untold damage to building societies, let’s take that approach and do untold good to private companies by mutualising them over time. Not nationalisation at great cost and great benefit to mandarins in Whitehall but mutualism to the great benefit of people.

Radical, cost-effective and locking in coop values into every day businesses. Not just niche coops but every single mainstream utility. Not in place of community energy but alongside.

Stephen Brimble from Exeter was right when he said yesterday that we need to be the party of entrepreneurs and self employed. And the private sector. Too damn right.

If our policies are to be mainstream, not peripheral, then our vision must be grand, not limited. As a result we need our politics - our party and our politicians - to champion that cause.

So, here’s what I want to do. I want to open our arms and our Parliamentary Party to any Labour MP who wants to become a Labour and Co-operative MP.

Not for the money, but because of our values. And we should demand more from them and our current stock. Being Labour and Co-op should never, ever again be a route to cash. It should be about the delivery of our values and if you don’t deliver you should be out. And this has nothing to do with Corbyn but everything to do with Karin and her legacy. Co-operative values mainstreamed and delivered via our Parliamentarians.

Mainstreaming our ambitions not accepting less on the periphery. Imagine our influence if our Parliamentary group was double with 50 MPs, or 100 MPs or 150 MPs.

By 2020 I want us to have won support for co-operative values and genuine public ownership at the heart of Labour policy. That doesn’t happen in halls like this - it happens in the Labour Party and we need to become so much more than quiet advocates for our cause.

Hard co-operators determined to drive an interventionist, expansive and bold deployment of our values into the mainstream.
Our party is more than just our MPs so we need to energise our movement and initiatives like Stella's CAN can help.

I bet before I started speaking you didn’t think you were a supporter of hard co-operation. But I hope you are now. And you may be sitting there thinking this is impossible. Too difficult. Too bold. Can we have something more beige, easier to do? No.
We can’t. We innovate or we die.That’s the choice.

I’m from Plymouth and you know that excellent Labour and Co- operative council is already delivering hard co-operation. It is not
called that in Plymouth, but they are. So is Vaughan Gething and his colleagues in the Welsh Assembly, so are councillors across the land. It’s time for Westminster to play catch up. 

So, if we want mutualism to be the primary economic model of choice for Labour, let's reassert that belief now. Let's set a new destination: a mutual state. 

And let's give Gavin and his team the parliamentary clout he needs
to push that through.

Direct
Loud
Proud
Total co-operation
Hard co-operation. Whatever you call it our window of opportunity
is now.

This is our moment. Think big - mainstream not peripheral. Apply
that value to everything we do as a movement.

In a years time will we be able to say we seized the opportunity or
let it slip by?

This is our movement’s moment. Let’s tell our party tomorrow we seized the opportunity today, not had it slip from our hands.
Dave Ward is right our politics comes from struggle. It comes from hope for a better world. Co-operation isn’t just an aspiration it’s an action. And hard co-operation and a vision of mainstream co- operative values isn’t just a vision it can, should and in my view,
must be our common destination. 

Conference, I’m going to head home to Plymouth empowered, excited and engaged. Let’s take that passion and spread the word. Engage, recruit, deliver. Share best practice and never, ever, ever accept limitation on what co-operative values can deliver.

Mainstream not peripheral - that is our future.

Thank you