The Centenary Conference – report and views
The Co-operative Party’s Centenary Conference took place in London on 13-15 October, with the first part held in the Westminster Central Hall – the venue for the first conference in 1917.
Conference then shifted to the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel with the session opened by Gareth Thomas, Chair of the Co-op Party welcoming keynote speaker Jeremy Corbyn MP and Centenary addresses from Ben Reid of Midcounties Co-operative and the Community Union’s Jacqueline Thomas.
The theme to Conference was Ideas to Change Britain and there was a discussion session led by speakers from Indycube, the Fair Tax Mark, and Baroness Glenys Thornton from the Young Foundation.
There followed a Scottish Parliament report and the first of two Westminster Parliaments reports. The first Policy Debate of the weekend was on Education with Tracey Brabin MP giving the keynote speech. The second Ideas to Change Britain saw speakers from Community Energy England, We Own It, a campaign for public ownership, and the Shadow Minister for Local Government Jim McMahon MP.
The second Westminster Parliamentary report focused on Brexit and featured Luke Pollard MP and Alex Mayer MEP.
The final session on the Sunday morning started with Campaigning with the co-operative movement, followed by the second Policy Debate, this one on Housing.
There followed a keynote speeches by Kate Osamor MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development and the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones AM.
The conference ended with a Policy process feedback and a Youth report.
I felt that the Policy Debates were a good step with more work to be done, and the Ideas for Britain sessions were useful and the panel members informative and inspiring.
There were many fringe meetings organised for delegates on Education, Brexit, Localism, Energy etc.
I attended the Framing the Progressive Narrative fringe, hosted by Muteo and Chaired by Seema Malhotra MP on Saturday lunchtime.
On the Saturday afternoon I was at the Brexit – good or bad for the Co-operative and Mutual Financial Services which had Alex Mayer MEP, Barry Sheerman MP and Credit Union Director Sally Chicken as speakers.
I have been a delegate to Annual Conference on several occasions and this was by far the most professionally staged one. There were many highlights, it was good to see Jeremy Corbyn address conference, the first Leader of the Labour Party to do so since James Callaghan in the 1970s. The Co-op Party is moving forward, the movement is adjusting and changing – the Co-op College is working with others to establish a Co-operative University.
The Co-op Party’s attempt to mark and celebrate our Centenary was very successful, here’s to the next 100 years.
Sid Pollitt, Conference delegate from the Kent Co-op Party.