Sunday, 27 January 2008

Re-organisation not until 2009

It's a strange creature the Co-op Party and when I go to the Manchester Area Party meetings I observe the goings on from a back seat. Funded by the consumer co-operative societies which determine the geography from their trading area, and this has to be mapped onto political boundaries, so the fit isn't too good somtimes. Even the people who've been for years describe it as 'byzantine'. Following the merger of United and the Co-op Group the north is suppose to re-organise itself. So far there is no agreement and so things will remain the same until 2009. There are some who want one big regional party, and there are those who want three regions in the north west and anything on the other side of the Pennines can do what they want. However Warrington today joined the Manchester Area Co-op Party - but Bolton & Bury don't want to.

The good part is you always get lunch, and you can chat to people not from your part of the forest. Got some Parliamentary gossip from Jim Dobbin MP, and updates about community radio from Cllr. Jim King from Salford. I left to go to football in Bury - FC United v. Rossendale - thinking changes are coming only we'll have to wait and see.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Tower Colliery : end of an era

Today one of the most famous co-operatives closes. The Tower Colliery was purchased by the workers in 1985, in times when the Thatcher Government had a policy of closing the coal industry.

The coal has run out at Tower but there is still plenty left in Britain. Coal has been making a comeback as a power fuel due to its cheaper price but most of it is being imported. New coal fired power stations have been commissioned, the first since 1974. There are bigger issues of Clean Coal Technology and carbon dioxide emissions though.

"This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time." - Aneurin Bevan MP circa 1947 - not so sure about the fish anymore.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Online Discussions

The Co-operative have lined up seven online discussions. Basically you type in your membership number on their website, post your question in advance and it gets answered. Believe me it does, 'cos I asked Peter Marks the CEO a question and I got a reply. If you sit around for three hours on the internet, which a lot of people apparently do these days on works time, you can join in with more comments.

Coming Up :
Tuesday 29th January 1600h - 1900h
Moira Lees, Group Secretary - challenges and the shape of things to come

There are further online discussions in February - Young Film Makers (6th), Ethical Food (12th), Fairtrade Campaigning (28th). In March - What Next For Fairtrade (5th), Member Development (19th) and last but far from least Co-operative Schools on April 7th.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Co-operative School first

Ed Balls (Labour / Co-op MP and Education Secretary) has been in the news a bit this week. Well the plan to put cookery lessons back in the curriculum was most welcome, or rather it was one lesson a week for 11 to 14 year olds. Can't possibly comment as I learnt to cook from watching tv how-to programmes, but it's all masterchef competition entertainment these days.

"In the morning (21st January) he was at Reddish Vale Technology College in nearby Stockport - in the process of becoming England's first school to be run by a co-operative trust.

Co-operative status would give staff and parents a say in the running of the school through democratic process. Parents, local organisations and even pupils could become members of the trust and help to make decisions." from Manchester Evening News story.
Also in the Financial Times "Balls raises prospect of school co-op model to rival academies" story.

Women's Day Event

It's someway off yet but a date for people interested in political and co-operative history:

Sunday 9th March 2008 : 1400h GMT
at the Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WX. A talk by Eleanor Lewington on her mother Ivy Woods - a remarkable campaigning co-operator.

This is to celebrate, the not so widely celebrated International Women's Day which is as ever on the 8th March.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

That Conservative Co-op Movement

When David Cameron MP made that speech in Manchester last November about the Conservatives wanting to support people to set up co-ops, it at least got the Co-op Party some press coverage and set hares running about Co-op's links with Labour.

We've not hear more much since, but we might very soon? A booklet, entitled "Nuts and Bolts - Or, How to Start a Food Co-op", by Amy Cole is due to be published later this year. Not sure if it will carry any new information but let's not judge it before reading it.

The BBC carried a story on Friday 18th January - Co-operative vs co-operative with quotes from Jesse Norman - Conservative Co-op Movement (sic) and Peter Hunt the Co-operative Party Secretary. Too sceptical to believe this is the new compasionate conservatives. Peter Hunt makes the reasonable point that if it wasn’t about the conservative party, Norman would join the existing co-operative movement, rather than trying to start his own from first principles (whilst also campaigning to become an MP)...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

South Members Group

BannerThe AGM season started last night when myself and our Secretary turned up to the South Manchester Co-op Members Group. In fact any member of the Co-operative can go to these meetings, but the reality was there was only 16 in the room.

We started off with a minute silence for Ruth Frow who died recently. Ruth and her late husband have left a legacy for the country, the Working Class Movement Library.

The business was brief. You know the drill. How much money have we got and the same people are re-elected unopposed 'cos nobody else wants anymore work. Then there is a report of the recent Co-operative trading figures - food up, pharmacy down, funerals up, travel down, motors doldrums.

The best part of going to meetings like this is the networking. Everyone in the room is involved in different groups - everything from socialist choirs, fairtrade, sustainabilty, Labour Party, Woodcraft...The other good bit are the refreshments. Tonight I'm going for coffee and some of premium biscuits.

So what do the Members Group do? Essentially organise trips, talks and events. The next one is the showing of Black Gold at the Blue Box Theatre, Chorlton on Wednesday 27th February - admission free. The Co-op Party is helping out with this. I was a bit worried that no one will come until I heard from everyone how they would be publicising the event. Can't beat a network, well let's hope so.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Nearly ready

Normal blogging service to be resumed again for 2008. Awaiting some news to report.