Before the formation of the Co-op Representation Committee in 1917 (the Co-operative Party name came later) there had been murmerings to take political action 20 years earlier.
Expressions in favour of independent political action were also being canvassed within the Co-operative Movement and given expression at the Congress of 1897 in the presidential address of William Maxwell of the Scottish CWS.
"I do not seek to introduce politics into co-operation, but I am most anxious to see co-operation introduced more into politics," he said. Furthermore delegates gave wholehearted backing to Norwich Society's resolution stating that, "the time has arrived for the direct representation of the Co-operative Movement in Parliament" and called for steps to be taken in that direction.
Afterwards, when individual societies, of which there were more than 1,600 at the time, were sounded-out, only about one in 20 reveled positive interest in proceeding any further. The issue came to naught, for the time being, at the Congress of 1900.
By this time, the TUC had already gone ahead and convened the "Conference on Labour Representation" in London at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, London, in February 1900.
John Merrett Bloom article, Co-operative News, August 10th 1999. Photo is Congress President William Maxwell
Part of the Co-operative Party 90th Anniversary history series.