Saturday, 28 April 2007

Labour Vision

Ed Balls MP supports credit unions as one of the options to tackle loan sharks - taken from the "Labour Vision" video channel. Ed Balls MP (Labour / Coop : Normanton) answering selected questions sent in by viewers. This runs for nearly 15 minutes, the longest video yet. Should politicians be allowed to speak for so long? If they have an audience who can want to listen and leave at anytime, then yes.

The Labour Party is making good use of its You Tube channel racking up 37 videos to date. Latest ones include an animation of old newspaper cuttings "Never Forget How The Tories Wrecked the NHS", 1' 26" with no soundtrack...mmm. Labour Vision

Friday, 27 April 2007

Who Pays?

A damming report by ActionAid. How British supermarkets are keeping poor workers in poverty - the darker side of the supermarket revolution.
"Pressure from UK supermarkets to drive down prices has led to an explosion in illegal cashew nut processing plants in India where women earn as little as 30 pence a day and suffer permanent damage to their hands from corrosive acids found inside the nut shell"
In the cost-cutting price wars it's people's wages that get cut not shareholder dividends.
Thanks to one of our members Angela Downing for pointing out this campaign.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Film Works

The Co-op has a long history of involvement in film, going back to the hand-cranked silent format. Researching for the forthcoming Co-op Film Night (it will happen soon!) I came across the name Tom Crowther who is not only regarded as a pioneer with the first film adverts, commissioned by the CWS, but he probably lived in Burnage, Manchester. That might be him behind the camera in the picture. There is a brief write-up about him at Who's Who of Victoria Cinema. We may be showing a few short clips from his output, available on VHS - yet another out of date format.

The other involvement is the annual Co-operative Young Film Makers Festival held in Bradford, Yorkshire. 100 very short films over two days on Fri 12 and Sat 13 October 2007. Unfortunately there isn't an "old film makers" festival, nor any opportunity to see the best of young film makers creations except on those two days. Maybe I should do something about that.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Co-op Sponsor Football Day

United Co-operative are one of the sponsors of FC United's "Youth United Day". We mentioned the possible future involvement - see Andy Walsh Speaks at AGM 17th March 2007 and it's happened sooner rather than next season. Last home game, next year it's a step up the Unibond Division One.
Full details of the event.

Answers on a postcard only

Thought I'd weigh into the local elections by pointing out the half-lies, economical truths that the opposition peddle. It says "Lib Dems Paul Ankers and John Leech MP with a local resident outside Unicorn, distributing postcards highlighting the dangers of climate change." In reality it's a brief photo opportunity. They are on a public pavement with Unicorn Co-operative in the background, they never handed out postcards and would have been told to clear off if they tried. The local resident is the son of Lib-Dem activists, he might even distribute leaflets for them. These are the same Lib-Dems who oppose any proposals that will encourage people to reduce car use or household waste. Let's tackle environmental problems with fine words but don't take local action.
You can read more about more fibs at Chris Paul's Labour of Love, including this one. Also at Chorltonparklabour including the remarkable cow story.

Party Funding

"Strengthening Democracy: Fair and Sustainable Funding of Political Parties" by Sir Hayden Phillips sets out a range of reforms. An increase in public funding of political parties to enhance public engagement, recommendations on limiting donations, limits on spending, public funding and regulation. There will have to an acceptance in part or full by the major UK political parties.

In respect to the Co-operative Party, it gets a little footnote on Page 10 (30 pages in total) "It is owned by the Co-operative Societies which are, in turn, owned by their individual members, and the Party receives its funding from them. The payments are made by the Societies acting together, but they are an expression of the views of individual members. I do not think it appropriate that these payments should be caught by a cap."

You can plough through the download document (PDF) at Party Funding Review or just look at the recommendations on one page.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Micro Co-operation

Buried deep in the news are stories of small co-operative projects. Writing about large group profits and growth you can easily forget that co-operation is about small collective actions that don't want to get too big. Whilst capitalism promotes one against all under the guise of individual self-help, co-operation is about mutual self-help. Recent stories:- local people in the small town of Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire want to save their Art Deco Cinema . They want to form a co-operative to run it. Let's hope it happens. Link.
Not in the news, but in a weblog I've been following is Hedgerow's attempt to set up a food co-operative - Piddling Food Junction in an area where choice is only a supermarket offer.
The tiny Mikron Theatre Company are to receive sponsorship from the Co-operative Group for a 2008 tour with a musical play about co-operation. I saw them perform "Pedal Power" a couple of years ago - the story of Clarion Cycling. It was really good, well paced, funny and dramatic. If anyone is going to justice to the values of co-operation, and bring live theatre to informal venues and non-theatre going audiences it's them. Positive news. Small has always been beautiful.

Friday, 20 April 2007

NM and NEC Elections

The spring edition of NM - the Co-operative Party magazine arrived in today's mail. For a political publication it's good. Normally you flit through the rhetoric, it sits around for a month before the paper gets recycled. No, it's actually readable. Stats: 24 pages, 13 short articles, crisp layout, colour photos. Contributors include Peter Hunt, Andy Love MP, Kate Elliot (Friends of the Earth), and Nick Francis (co-director of Black Gold Movie).

There are also voting papers for the Co-op Party NEC - 13 men chasing a seat, 4 women doing likewise. Well I don't know any of the candidates so I either wait for a dubious recommend of "they are quite good", or scan the biographies to see who ticks the right boxes..and voting online too, we are in the modern age.
UPDATE : Magazine available as a PDF

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Healthcare this month

The Co-op Party is publishing new policy & discussion documents every month. April might be half started or half over, depends how optimistic your view of the world, but the "Mutuality in Healthcare" has been published in the tree saving PDF online format - here. Primary Care Trusts and GP Co-ops anyone....


Infinity Foods, a workers co-operative based in Brighton are marketing fairtrade organic quinoa. I caught up with them this week at Natural Products, the big organic trade fair in London. Their shop at 25 North Road is expanding into premises next door, they have a cafe round the corner but the big operation is sourcing and packing wholesome commodities in Portslade. They told me about the trips to Ecuador, the processing involved to make the grain fit for the plate, the various varieties and a little of the bureaucracy to obtain fairtrade status. Chalk this up one to another co-operative initiative and achievement for fairtrade. Never heard of quinoa - cooks like rice, it's a South American staple and a complete protein like soya beans. Available at On the Eighth Day Co-operative, Oxford Road, Manchester - not available in supermarkets.
Infinity Foods

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Robert Opie Collection

Recent trip to London. This included a visit to the back streets of Notting Hill and a visit to the Museum of Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising which displays about 120 years of cans, wrappers and bottles. The things we throw away everyday (or try to recycle). The recent decades are a nostalgia trip and the earlier years are social commentary. A fascinating hour was rounded off with a chat to Robert Opie who has collected and curated the material. A friendly splendid chap who is constantly adding current and antique items to this vast treasure. Not much Co-op stuff on display. But he does have a whole archive of old Co-op packaging going back to the 1870's which really needs to be seen. The Co-op were doing own brand commodities in Queen Victoria's reign. Usually named after the factories that produced them - Crumpsall Cream Crackers, Pelaw Shoe Polish, Luton Cocoa. However space and finances are always the limits to a museum. Maybe the Co-op Group could sponsor an exhibition there?

In short, dip out of the tourist tat of the metropolis and indulge sometime in nostalgia and history you can relate to at this little gem.

Museum of Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising - details
2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AR
Robert Opie Collection - details

Friday, 13 April 2007

Chorlton Park Campaign

We've been following the local election campaigns (earlier post 4th April) in the Manchester blogosphere and it's woolly hats off to John Hacking standing as Labour & Co-operative candidate in Chorlton Park. He organises his time well - meeting people, canvassing, helping out elsewhere and still has time to post a regular weblog entry at the end of the day. Latest picture shows John with Lucy Powell the Labour Party prospective Parliamentary candidate for Manchester Withington before they go "knocking on doors". You can keep up to date at chorltonparklabour.

Ask Ed

Ed Balls MP (Labour /Cooperative - Normanton) is inviting people to ask him questions on the Labour Party’s new YouTube channel – Labour Vision. If you’ve got a question, and want to see his intro video - go here.

At last politicans making good use of current technology, instead of talking about something called "new technology".

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Co-op Group Profits

Last week United Co-op posted robust profit figures, this week it's the turn of Co-operative Group to announce 318m GBP profit up 17.6%. All of this ahead of next week's merger meetings - the members to decide with a 2 thirds majority needed.

The Co-op Bank's contribution was down by 21.6m GBP, apparently caused by a rise in bad debts in the UK. Good job there isn't a recession on then. Pharmacy, food (41.8% of revenue, like-for-like sales increased by 4.4%, with profits rising by 29.2 pct), funeral care did well, travel lost money.

An Inconvenient Truth Showings

The Co-operative Group are hiring independent cinemas and showing "An Inconvenient Truth" free of charge to its members. Venues in May and June include Liverpool, Burnley, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Hull and Bradford. In Manchester it's on at The Cornerhouse 9th June. It's the film that won't go away - possibly because the subject won't go away either. Released in the UK in September 2006, and won a couple of Oscars since then. It was even shown for free last month in a local school in Chorlton. Available on Amazon for 5.97 GBP + P&P.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Election for shirts?

Our local supporters owned football club - FC United of Manchester have just won promotion to the Unibond (Northern Premier League Division 1) and the members voted to have a new shirt for next season. Now we can vote on which shirt it will be. 147 entries have been whittled down to 4 and it's crunch time for the candidates. Note the strict no sponsorship on the shirt too. Principles before profit.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Co-operative Music

Always on the look out for all things co-op. Co-op taxi firms, cinemas, cafes...yeah, yeah, yeah. But didn't expect to find anything on iTunes. Just waiting for a download and ran a search. How about Co-operative Music.
Might be based in Sweden but covers artists through Europe, Brazil, USA, Australia. A collective of independent labels. Plenty there. I'll get back after dipping in for a sample. It's the age of democratic publishing but you still need someone to separate the signal from the noise and find the gems.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Co-Op Video & Film Night

The plans for our Co-operative Film evening are moving forward. There is the film footage that members' want to see because a lot of them are in it. Shot on Hi-8 tape over ten years ago, it has remained unedited and unseen since then. Now, we have access to an old Hi-8 camera the process of transferring it a short piece on DVD will commence.

The Labour Party has it's own channel on YouTube - Labourvision which attracts some hits. Well the Tony Blair 1 minute intro video has after being featured on ITN news.

Whilst we wait for a Co-operative Party channel I've started to aggregate some co-operative videos available on the web. You are welcome to join in. You can, if you sign up - it's free. Otherwise send links of interesting videos reflecting co-operative values or featuring mutual organisations. Most of the material comes from the USA so far - so more searching to give the collection are more international balance. CoOpVid

Thursday, 5 April 2007

The candidate

Withington Candidate
A favourable story in this week's South Manchester Reporter about the new Labour candidate for Withington Manchester. Seen here with Lord Bradley, the last Labour MP and Secretary of Withington Co-op Party for many years. Lucy recently joined the Co-op Party and we'll look forward to inviting her to our meetings. I publish these because some people don't always receive the freesheet and then miss out on the news and lively letters page.
Move Over John I Want Your Seat - SMR 5th April 2007

Search For A Mutual

The search facility at the FSA Mutuals Public Register is pretty thorough. Turns up some results you wouldn't expect. Organisations like Manchester Tenants Limited who've been running Burnage Garden Village since 1906, or how about Old Trafford Conservative Club on Seymour Grove. Actually quite a few old Conservative Clubs are registered under the Act. The latest entry for the area was Manchester City Supporters Society Ltd, March 2007.
Some stats for Manchester and thereabouts : I&P Societies (167), Building Societies (1), Credit Unions (14), Friendly Societies (46). Doesn't include Stockport or Sale which are located in Cheshire apparently. You always need some research skills to get the best out of the data.
FSA Mutuals Public Register

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Local Election Campaigns

This is the month when most of our members are involved in the local election campaigns. Have a meeting in April then expect no one to turn up and a few irate phone calls - don't you know there is an election on. This year there is only one Labour/Co-operative candidate in our area - John Hacking in Chorlton Park. However other members are standing in Didsbury East (Geoff Bridson), Crumpsall (Con Keegan) as Labour candidates. Errr, there might be some more.... How will the phenomena of "Blogging For Labour" fare during an election period - when there are distractions of leaflets, canvassing and going to the pub afterwards. There are some good examples out there of MP's, Councillors and activists making good use of push button publishing. However there are a lot of static sites that should be deleted.

Will there be further use of internet technology - videos, photo slideshows, online debates, netcasting, even making your leaflet available online. Possibly, but maybe not this year. However a good start has been made. The Labour Party is featuring the local elections on its opening page. Our local Labour bloggers published the story of lower Council taxes in Labour authorities than Conservative or Lib-Dem. If you have any examples of good use of technology for political propaganda (not afraid to use that word) then email or comment. Some of the blogs we'll be following in between another bundle of leaflets will be :-
Chorlton Park Labour (Manchester)
Crumpsall Labour (Manchester)
Fallowfield Labour (Manchester)
Louise Baldock (Liverpool)
Northenden Labour (Manchester)
On The Knocker (Manchester)

United Co-op Post Good Figures

A month ahead of the AGM and a couple of weeks before the "merger" meetings United Co-operative publishes it trading figures for 2006. Turnover 2.2 billion GBP - 52 week year, 2005 was 2.5 billion on a 53 week year. Pre-tax profits were up to 62.4 million GBP - though some of that was exceptional items - that usually means disposing property as the Co-op disengages itself from having large stores.
Food sales 1.01 billion (921m - 2006), retail pharmacy 220m (152m - 2006), travel sales 555m (568m), motor sales 285m (311m).

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Co-op Party Has Two Lords

Former GMC Building
We have two Lords in our Co-op Party, but we just call them Gerry and Keith. The hereditary one with no seat in the House with red seats was in this week's local South Manchester Reporter. They appear to be running stories with a historical connection to fill in the pages before the estate agents blurb. If they'd asked I could have sent in this snap I took in the old County Hall, home of the old GLC. Keep meaning to make a print of one of his ancestors set in stone to give to Gerry.
Lord knows that I don’t need the title - Story in SM Reporter (with picture).