Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Conference Fireworks in 1945

History series continues...with a report of what went on at the Easter 1945 Co-op Party Conference in Scarborough, attended by 730 delegates (a record number) when individual membership of the party is quoted at approximately 20,000. What follows reads like familiar arguments for anyone who has ever been to a political party conference. Unless otherwise stated the speakers are from Manchester & Salford Co-operative Society....

Opening speech by A.V. Alexander, the Co-operative / Labour MP (Sheffield Hillsborough) in Churchill's wartime cabinet. That's the man in the hat shaking hands with the Blackburn Rovers team at the 1940 Wartime Cup Final. They lost 0-1 to West Ham United.

Alfred Barnes MP (East Ham South) announces "the resolution on the calling of a conference of all working-class organisations to fight the next elections. The air was tense when our President, Mrs. Jones, took her stand on the rostrum to second the resolution for the calling of a conference to organise on a national basis, as we had organised in Manchester, all the sections of the working class comprising the Labour and Co-operative Parties and the Trade Unions in a Council of Labour. There was much support for the resolution from the floor, but the National Committee led by Mr. Barnes was having none of it, as they insisted that we would foul of the Labour Party, particularly if we invited the Communist Party. A show of cards disclosed that the resolution had been lost."

"the resolution on the affiliation to the Labour Party was taken after lunch on Sunday afternoon. Royal Arsenal Society led the fight, but one felt that the onslaught of the National Committee, who were opposed to the resolution long before the Conference. Our Mrs. Sheldon ably stated our case and Mr. Meachin, Blackpool, gave the National Committee a terrific broadside. The discussion was not without its humorous side, a rather elderly delegate from Long Eaton had the idea that the resolution entitled him to give a long discussion about his father-in-law, until our Mr. Starkey interjected with the remark, 'I'll have to ask me dad.' The Conference roared with laughter and it did not subside until Mr. Barnes rang the delegate off. Mr. Barnes was at his best. He made the most of his case and and he marshalled his words to be advantage. As expected the mover of the resolution in his reply could not break down the barrage from Mr. Barnes and the result of the card vote was : 1,247,000 for the affiliation, 5,488,000 against."

From M&S Co-op Society Co-operative Party report - Co-operative Herald May 1945

Monday, 30 July 2007

Co-operative Review 2007

Conducted by Co-operatives UK, a 16 page report found that co-ops collectively have nearly 11 million members across the UK; employ 200,000 people; and have a turnover of 27 billion GBP.
Those are the big numbers...three milk co-operatives in the top ten - Milk Link, Dairy Farmers of Great Britain, First Milk Ltd. Biggest credit union is in Derry 6.1 million GBP turnover. Oh, and John Lewis is included in the figures though that is a Partnership and not a Co-op.
Download PDF.

Friday, 27 July 2007

It's not really news

Just been reading Alan Gill's, the last President of Co-operative Congress (they voted to abolish the post at the Congress)...there is a mention of some worker co-ops in Manchester

"Even the traditional retail co-ops have things to learn from the new food co-ops like Eighth Day, Equal Exchange, Infinity, Out Of This World and Unicorn, and, and of course they have something to learn from us. And we have much to learn from co-operatives overseas. The new European Society Legislation which has now spawned the first European Society – a collaboration between co-operative organisations in Italy, Finland and Spain - surely there are opportunities here for us – perhaps linking with the consumer movement in Italy which has a national market share similar to Tesco in the UK – and surely the Pioneers would encourage us to rise to that challenge."
Full text (PDF) - quite short.

Milk For Spain 1938

90th Anniversary history series continues...
Milk For Spain was a fund-raising campaign during the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) set up by activists in the Co-operative Union and the Labour Party. It received donations from co-operative societies, and customers could contribute money buying tokens. Advert is from the M&S (Manchester & Salford) Co-operative Herald November 1938 promoting the scheme. The milk in powdered or condensed form was sent from Britain to the Spanish Republican areas.
Wikipedia - Link.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Political Party Accounts

Political parties and their accounting units are required to submit their accounts to the Electoral Commission each year. Those with a gross annual income or total expenditure of over £250,000 have six months to do so. The Co-operative Party sent their accounts in six days late and might have to pay a fine of £500. Final accounts have yet to be received from the British National Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats.

13 political parties reported income or expenditure of over £250,000 - the big ones, plus Respect, Sinn Fein, UKIP, Co-op Party...Seven accounting units are over the £250k figure of which four are rich Conservative Associations (Kensington, Aylesbury, Surrey Heath, and London & Westminster)

Further reading. Electoral Commission Press Release...The accounts of the parties and some interesting names in that list, like The Southport Party, Space Navies, Norwich Over Water Party (what?). All in PDF format - looks like they have been quickly scanned from paper copies. Co-op Party Accounts here (PDF)

History in weblog format

For those interested in Labour / Union history I'd recommend three history weblogs they are by one of our readers who has been sending me some excellent Co-op pictures. The posts consist of newspaper cuttings and articles from the past. Forgotten and not forgotten strikes, the Clarion Van, Esperanto groups. Fascinating stuff, it's an online scrapbook fortunately with an index.

Hayes Peoples History - Labour / TU history in Middlesex, national stories in a local setting
Country Standard - a former radical magazine for rural workers

Two postings of interest...Women's Co-operative Guild which illustrates how political they could be on issues of peace and divorce reform. The Red Flag - a story from 1927 that would still get the Daily Mail in a hissy fit if you attempted such action in 2007.

Lets Go Global

Lets Go Global is an arts led community Internet TV Channel based in Old Trafford Manchester - local groups, working with young people & etc. I'll be being interviewed live about Fairtrade. Notably about cocoa and chocolate which have issues of child slavery in West Africa. There will be a short video piece of activity in Unicorn Co-operative Grocery in the "Global Youth show" - that's what I think it's called. It will be broadcast on Tuesday 31st July between 1800h and 1900h BST. Hopefully the show will be archived, so more people including myself can see it.
Lets Go Global website. They also have some output on YouTube....doesn't everyone.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Generating Socialism Revisited

This book came out 10 years ago, and I picked it up at a cheap price a few years back. Still available, and there are some very, very cheap copies on Amazon. It's essentially snippet recollections by numerous people. Tony Benn says in the foreward "a must for anyone who really wants to understand Socialism in Britain...it's roots, it's members, it's activities..." There is a section on Co-operation and this is the sort of text you'll find.

"When I came back from the Forces in 1947 I joined both the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party. The Labour Party was by the more exciting of the two. That's not to say it was a thrill a minute, but it was certainly a livelier organisation than the local branch of the Co-operative Party" - Tom Carbery, Glasgow

"I feel the Co-op has been very badly treated by the Labour movement. I don't think their contribution has been quite recognised as it might be. They're always at the tail end of everything, the Co-op. If there's speakers it's unions, and then the Labour Party and then at the tail end." - Isa Paton, Glasgow

There are also some memories of the Labour Party in Withington circa 1938 from people who were young and active at that time.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Shop Local

Picked this up from Politics For People...it's a spoof advert by Friends of the Earth about Shopping Local. Voiced by Alexi Sayle, the ad urges shoppers to spend a few more pounds in their local shops. As Co-op Stores are mostly small and community minded I think they are part of that fabric. Watch it here on YouTube. It's a very short animation that gets the message across without the polemic.

"Across the country independent shops are being squeezed out of business by big supermarkets - but people actually want more local stores. A new NOP survey shows that 80 per cent of the public want more local shops. And more people would oppose a new Tesco store than would welcome one." - FOE Real Food Campaign

There is one minute film competition. Make a film of exactly 60 seconds which explores how we look after our planet and use it like there is a tomorrow. Details. I wouldn't mind making a co-operative entry so would welcome some ideas and assistance. It's not co-operative if you're on your own. Emails, comments appreciated. Closing date 20th August 2007.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

The first 21 years

For the 21st Anniversary of the Co-operative Party merit certificates were issued to Women's, Men's or Mixed Guilds. Notice the old style beehive in the left hand corner, they are called a skep and are now illegal in many countries (you have to destroy them to get the honey). The beehive is still used as a co-operative image - it's on the Co-operative Group website, it's an old fashioned white wooden one. Back then it was 5p a year to be a member of the party, and there was clearly encouragement to join if you were in another co-operative members group. Moss Side, and Withington Constituency Manchester & Salford Co-op Parties don't get a mention in the advert though they were in existence and meeting.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Former Secretary

History series....former Withington Co-operative Party Secretary, and former MP for Manchester Withington (1987 - 2006), why it's our very own Keith Bradley. Picture looks like it's the April 1992 General Election at the Labour Committee Rooms above Hardy Lane Co-op, Chorlton. We won in Withington with an increased majority but the Tories were returned to power yet again.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

What's Coming Up

Activities go quiet in August but what's coming up.....trip to Hesketh Newmarket, Cumbria to the village's co-operative brewery (September), Co-op Party Conference in London (September), 90th Anniversary dinner with Alun Michael MP in Prestwich (October), Olive Oil politics of Palestine at Hardy Lane (November), and hopefully our own social / meal event to mark the 90th Anniversary...

Also there have been numerous requests to release a DVD version of the 1993 Bye-Election shown last week. So going to beef up the sound, re-edit it, include some extra footage etc. It'll be a limited edition item to be sold to raise funds for Lucy Powell's campaign to re-gain Withington for Labour.

James Johnston

Pre-dates the Co-op Party but James Johnston was a co-operator and politician in Victorian Manchester.

Originally from Jarrow, travelled extensively in Europe and America. "Some of the most interesting journeys were made in the company of his old friend E. Vansittart Neale, one of the Christian Socialists of 1848, with whom he visited Guise and Paris, to study the practical application of Fourier's theories to modern industry." Became one of the first Labour Councillors in Manchester. President of the Manchester & Salford Co-op Society 1888-90, and 1896-1899, vegetarian for 19 years (then lapsed)..."in the summer of 1896 he spent several weeks with the Clarion Van, visiting the towns and villages in Shropshire, and speaking at open-air meetings in advocacy of collectivism."

Taken the quotes and facts from "Manchester Faces & Places" January 1899. It was an illustrated record of the social, political, and commercial life of the cotton metropolis and its environs 1889-1900 - bound copies in Manchester Central Reference Library. Cllr. James Johnston also gets a mention in Edward Carpenter's Autobiography "My Days & Dreams" Chapter 11 , now he was a famous socialist character.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Going East

"Scottish farmers are forming a co-operative to secure land in Russia after being lured abroad by the offer of cheap farms and a new start." Link
The acres are the size of counties, but it's 11 below in the winter. Interesting story.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Facebook Group

Paul Murphy has set up a Facebook Group "Northern Co-operative Party" - Link . He's sent out the invites, though you are welcome to join if you wish and are on Facebook. I'm quite surprised how this Social Networking application has taken off with people who have only previously used the internet for a dash of email. There you go, what do I know.

Mancunian Milk

History series continues with an advert for M&S (Manchester & Salford) Co-op Milk from around 1940, sent in by reader Michael. Also a report of a speech made by local Co-op Party member & co-operator, Edgar Whiteley in 1921 advocating a monopoly for milk distribution in Manchester. "Ten Milkmen down one street, some of the follies we have to pay for". Supplying clean pure milk was a bit of an issue back then. Cllr. Ernest Simon (Liberal, later MP for Withington) was advocating a municipal pure milk supply using the local Co-operative Societies to run the scheme. Nowadays milk to the doorstep has nearly disappeared, and it is safe to drink, though it bears no resemblance to what comes out of a bovine udder.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Mr.Brown backs Withington

We might be heading into the summer political holiday season without the sunshine but in Withington Constituency the next General Election has started already. It's 10 years since we were a target seat and you get used to it being quiet. Story in this week's South Manchester Reporter "Brown to guide the fight for Withington". Well apparently, and local activists have been ordered to take to the street which is not the sort of thing that ever goes on in a volunteer army. However we'll be going to a campaign meeting to-morrow to hear more and offer all the help we can.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Tesco Effect

Story in this week's South Manchester Reporter that the United Co-op store on Fog Lane, Burnage is to close. It's not been trading well since the big new Tesco opened a year or so ago. Quote from a local shopkeeper "Everybody has been affected. Once Tesco comes into an area nobody else stands a chance. Nobody knows how to stop it – it’s like a juggernaut." Full Story.

Big Demo in 1921

Back to the history series - a lot to get through before the end of the 90th year. Picture is a report of a Co-operative Demonstration in Platt Fields, Rusholme, Manchester on World Co-operative Day, Saturday July 5th 1921. Back then the Tories ran the City and refused to let the Co-op use any of the parks. But back then the Co-op was more political and held a big demonstration anyway. Speakers include Alfred Waterson the first Co-op MP, S.F. Perry the Co-op Party National Secretary, and a host of Labour Councillors and officials from the Trades Council. Three separate platforms of speakers, the CWS Tobacco Factory Brass Band and the Women's Guild and loads of kiddies out in force. Click the pic to squint at the text.Post Options

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Store Expansion

Building work has started on the Hardy Lane Co-op Store, Chorlton, Manchester - a car park and an extension to the existing shop. We'll be photographing the progress over the next few months. This would be just another small Co-op shop, it's having the meeting room upstairs that makes it different, a link back to the Rochdale Pioneers when they would attend above the shop.

Film Night Meeting

Not the sort of format for the Co-op Party I'd envisaged but a successful evening. A few slight technical difficulties getting the DVD to play but it didn't matter in the end - the audience had come to see the 1993 Bye-Election - 30 minutes of nostalgia even though some of them would only be about 10 years old back then. Photo is a screen grab of Peter Wheeler, a legendary Labour Party worker in these parts - there is even an Appreciation Society on Facebook for him. I usually enjoy the few Co-op Party meetings we have in the year. Business is short and snappy, there are always refreshments, everybody talks to each other and then we go to the pub.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

World Co-op Day Event

World Co-op DayThe Lowry, Salford, Sunday 8th July - a day of sunshine and a massive heavy shower. A lot going on so it was only possible to see glimpses of the day in between chatting to people. Bit of a photo gallery here. A very enjoyable afternoon, in a very confusing building. Some political speech making upstairs but by the time I got there it was over so went to look at the art gallery and have a coffee.