Friday, 29 February 2008

Bags of them

If there was a time for a grassroots political campaign to become legislation then that time has arrived for abolishing disposable plastic carrier bags. Let's face it we don't really need another when we've gone through a couple of dozen this month. Lots of mixed messages this week that skirt around the edges. The Prime Minister announces something is going to be done, M&S are going to charge 5p for a bag, The Co-operative have fairtrade long life cotton bags on special offer.

"The Co-operative is to run a six-week trial of home-compostable carrier bags in a bid to encourage shoppers to cut down on free, throwaway plastic bags. The scheme will run at 11 stores in Northampton."
Talking Retail

However, it's not just the issue of landfill it's the waste of resources of oil and energy to make something that''s going to be used for a couple of minutes. Customers are price sensitive, 5p is too cheap and voluntary action hasn't had enough take up, so maybe a tax of 20p per bag would change things.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Fair Trade Online Discussion

Missed taking part in the online discussion hosted by The Co-operative today. The topic was Fairtrade Campaigning. But I've read the questions and answers and some interesting ideas came up. A focus on fairtrade cotton for Manchester next year, given our historic links with this textile. Live video link-ups between schools in Garstang and Ghana, and having a Ubuntu fairtrade cola v. Pepsi / Coke challenge.
If you are a member of The Co-operative, and can find your membership number on you card, then you can log in and read.
P.S. One of our own members Cllr. Sue Murphy was in the panel. There is another online discussion on fairtrade on March 5th.

El Alto Tough But Fair

This week we'll be mainly blogging about fairtrade. El Alto produces outdoor clothing and equipment which has been ethically sourced and manufactured in Bolivia. Personally I never go near a mountain but I've bought some of their thermals and fleeces - just the job for a watching a winter football fixture. Not bulky, just fashionable, British designed and Bolivian made. You can read about it on their website.
For locals you can nip to Arkadash in Chorlton (also in Leeds) the shop that stocks fairtrade or organic clothing. 20% discounts on offer in Fairtrade Fortnight. P.S. I don't get paid to plug this stuff.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Successful Fairtrade Showing

Over 100 people came out to see the showing of "Black Gold", which in these of many distractions is a good muster. As a bonus we got to meet Christiana and Comfort from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa co-operative in Ghana over in the UK to promote fairtrade. What a contrast. You meet people who talk about the schools, health care and clean water that's come from having a sustainable price for their commodities. Then you watch a film of Ethiopia, a country that grows quality coffee but receives starvation wages for it.
Picture is : myself (Co-op Party), John Hacking (Chorltonparklabour), Comfort (Kuapa Kokoo), Paul Murphy (Co-op Party), Cllr Sue Murphy (Chair of the Fairtrade Manchester steering group). Little movie of the event to follow....

After Black Gold

Now showing at the cafe at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Wilmslow Road, Manchester is a selection of photographs documenting the impact of Fairtrade on coffee farming communities. Throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, 25th February to 9th March 2008. Details.
The cafe is pretty good as well. Opening Times.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Breakfast, Dinner & Wine

FT breakfastNo use banging on about fairtrade if you don't buy into it. So here we have:

a) Fairtrade breakfast that's OJ, some of the muesli, banana, but not the soya milk.

Fairtrade mealb) 100% Fairtrade dinner.
Red quinoa, Nut Koftas (brazils and cashews, ground and fried), fried banana (the unripest ones I could find in the Co-op), Mango relish (re-hydrated sun dried mango coated in mango chutney). Apart from the mango it all has a co-op connection, either Suma or The Co-operative.

FT wine c) Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape which I've not tried yet but as it won "The Best Vegan Fairly Traded Product" award for 2008 thought I'd pop it in the basket, or was the 20% off attraction.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Visitors from Ghana

It's more than a rumour but coming to the showing of Black Gold on Wednesday there might be two visitors from Kuapa Kokoo the co-operative in Ghana that grows cocoa beans that go into Divine Chocolate.

Hopefully we'll hear first hand of this fairtrade success story.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Fairtrade Woman

For Fairtrade Fortnight I'll be seeking out local fairtrade activity - don't have to wait long as we're showing Black Gold this Wednesday 27th February in Chorlton.

If you're on Facebook you might want to check out Fairtrade Woman who'll be surviving on nothing but Fairtrade food for two weeks. There are some competitions with prizes you can enter by designing a 100% or a 50% fairtrade meal. As a dab hand at home cooking I'll be publishing my entry this week. If you don't know what quinoa is you'd better Google it now.

Nuts & Bolts Online

The Conservative Co-operative Movement have made the booklet "Nuts & Bolts : How to Start a Food Co-operative" available online. You can download the 90+ pages here. You are supposed to sign up to the free email newsletter, which I have done, as I want to kept up to date. I've read some of it already and it looks like a practical guide.

The only thing that is still puzzling me is the Conservative Co-op Movement is at an arms length distance from the Conservative Party. If you visit the Conservative Party website you'd never know that David Cameron and the new look Tories were now pro-Co-operative. Well we'll see in the coming months.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Co-op Cons Move More

There is me checking the Conservatives website all week for the Conservative Co-op Movement. Nothing - it's been hived off to a separate site (not a dot org or even a .coop).

So let's try and find the book. Amazon have it out of stock at present. "Nuts & Bolts: How to Start a Food Co-op (Paperback)- by Amy Coyle (Author), Jesse Norman (Introduction)" 5 quid plus 1.99 sourcing fee whatever that is. 98 pages.

So meanwhile it's worth reading the Politics for People comment on the book launch - here. Best quote "They are aboard and we're glad to have them. Labour's links with the cooperative movement goes back to the 1800s. We are sure this will last as long."

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Cons Co-op Move Reaction

Dame Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operativesUK, is calling on the those in the Conservative Party that are now advocating co-ops to join with the rest of the co-operative movement to further the cause of co-operative enterprise, rather than invent something new...more

Best quote..
"If David Cameron is now signalling that that hostility is at an end, co-operators across the country will welcome that."

Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 - Part 1

Fairtrade bagFairtrade Fortnight 25 February - 9 March 2008 is only days away. The Co-operative have got off the mark early 'cos when I popped into my local store I found these fairtrade cotton bags on offer to shoppers. Expected to pay but didn't get charged. Surely some mistake as it's good quality bag complete with gusset - and you always want a gusset.

There is a 20% discount on Faitrade products. Thought I'd start with some bananas, a malbec ( red wine) from Argentina, fairtrade muesli and some brazil nuts....more

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cons Co-op Move

David Cameron MP is expected to "launch" his Co-operative Co-op Movement tomorrow 20th February. The Co-op Party have already dissed it as a cynical stunt looking for green credentials. I look forward to reading "Nuts and Bolts" (apparently their booklet is called that) might make interesting reading and a reversal of a century of being at best apathetic and at worse antagonistic towards mutualism.
PR Newswire Story

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Tories Back on the Co-op Trail

We're expecting an announcement from David Cameron MP about the Tories plans for food co-operatives. I notice he's speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference (2008 is their centenary year) on Monday 18th February. He's on the same platform as Hilary Benn MP (Secretary of State at DEFRA) around the subject "Farming - Politically Essential". There is an article in the Observer 17/02/2008

Good quote from Jesse Norman "There's nothing in what it is to be a co-op that places it anywhere in the political spectrum." I know we don't talk about the Co-operative Commonwealth anymore, but I'll think you'll find it near enough Socialism.

Not that you need a Tory Party handbook to set up a food co-operative. There is a story in the Wrexham Evening Leader 15/02/2008 were residents have re-launched their food co-op after it closed last July.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

We Are Together Film

The film WE ARE TOGETHER (Thina Simunye) which has been championed by the Co-op Party with several showings at Conference and elsewhere is to get an UK cinema release in March. It's been shown in Manchester at the Odeon Printworks Friday 7th March until the 14th March.
List of Screenings in the UK
Website - with new Trailer

Lucy Powell on Guardian Blogs

Good to see a promising start to blogging made by our own Lucy Powell (Prospective Labour candidate for Manchester Withington). Hopefully the entries will continue, then we can all read about political activities and engagements first hand rather than just relying on word of mouth or what makes the newsprint. It's part of the Guardian's political blog series. I thought they were very short entries until I realised you had to click the title to get the full article.
Lucy Powell Weekly Blog

Friday, 15 February 2008

We're backing Arlene

The first I knew it was European Parliament candidate selection time was when the Arlene McCarthy's leaflet arrived yesterday. A prominent mention for the Co-op Party, and a short endorsement from Paul Murphy, Chair of Manchester Area Party and Secretary of Withington Co-op Party for her help with credit unions and co-operatives.

Today the ballot papers arrived. They have to be returned by Friday 7th March by post - sadly no online voting for this contest. Anyway it's no contest for us - Arlene is the Number 1 choice for all the support and help she's made as MEP for this region. The European Parliamentary elections will take place in June 2009.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Campaigning all year round

Years ago political parties turned up in April for your vote in May. Now propaganda activities only stop for xmas and the long school holidays in summer. This is a picture from the other night in an activity called "stuffing envelopes" for the Labour Party in the Hardy Lane Co-op Rooms. I noticed everybody in the photo is also a member of Withington Co-op Party. We could have organised a discussion instead of doing gossip, jokes and a cup of tea.

Picture from John Hacking - see ChorltonParkLabour.

New General Secretary

"The Co-operative Party is searching for a new General Secretary after the surprise announcement that Peter Hunt plans to leave the post next month to set up a Westminster-based public affairs consultancy.

Mr Hunt will be joined in the new venture by Matt Ball, currently Parliamentary Officer with the Party, who is also working his notice and will leave his post on March 3rd.

Peter Hunt told that he wanted a new challenge after ten years in charge of running the Co-op Party's affairs, but said he would continue to be involved in the co-operative and mutual sector and will stay on as Chief Executive of the think tank and advisory body Mutuo."
form Co-operative News 12/02/2008

Monday, 11 February 2008

Online Web Chats

The Co-operative online webchat series continues tomorrow afternoon with Ethical Shopping. On Thursday February 28th there is another about Fairtrade Campaigning, and on the panel that'll be replying to questions via a keyboard will be one of our members - Councillor Sue Murphy (Brooklands, Manchester).

You need to log in with your Co-operative membership number to take part. Link.

Co-operative Football

You couldn't possibly get more community and co-operative than the forthcoming FC United v. Bamber Bridge fixture at Gigg Lane, Bury on Saturday 1st March. The kids (u-18's) have free admission, there are free fairtrade snacks provide by The Co-operative and other activities if you get there early to Youth United Day. FC United are owned by their members, and personally as someone who watches the Premier League I must say I do really enjoy an afternoon in the Unibond Division One North with 2-3,000 Mancunians.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Two Ministers in One Day

Kevin & Ed Balls MPPossibly what's to come over the next two years or less - Ministers popping into Withington Constituency now it's a target marginal with one of our members Lucy Powell the prospective candidate for the Labour Party.

In the afternoon there was Douglas Alexander MP, Minister For International Development. Arrived an hour late due to previous engagements and traffic. But 40 or so hung on in St. Ninians, Chorlton to listen. Then followed some tricky questions from the audience, but you have to hand it him he knows his stuff.
In the evening it was a fund raising dinner for Lucy's campaign in Didsbury. The Co-op Party, as you'd expect chipped in with prizes and support. The highlight was Ed Balls MP (Labour/Co-op). Now I've been to many dinners like this but never one with the guest speaker going round every table to meet everyone. Hand shaking and a few relevant words - it takes some stamina to work a room of that size and then do your speech with a few funny stories thrown in.
Picture is of Kevin Bennett, from the Co-op Party in Warrington and Ed Balls MP. There are a few other Photos (11).

Thursday, 7 February 2008

AGM Done and Dusted

As AGM's go the Withington Co-op Party is possibly one of the most relaxed meetings to attend. Okeh, we got delayed whilst the Secretary nipped to the Co-op shop downstairs to buy the juice, beer and biscuits so ten minutes of gossiping whilst we wait. Everybody re-elected unopposed - not sort after posts then. Bit of a discussion about will there still be a branch next year with the organisational changes of the party in the north. Who knows, you just carry on until told not to... Agreed the donations to five our members standing in the local elections (3 as Lab/Co-op; 2 as Labour) just as long as they mention something about the Co-op Party in their leaflets.

Ideas for activity, and after the 90th Anniversary year of 2007 it didn't have that must-do buzz this year....Fairtrade Update (read can we sample some new world wines from the Co-op again), Robert Owen (acknowledge 150 years), Ship Canal Cruise (the Secretary has been trying to get six hours on a boat with a bar on the programme for years - this might be it - Liverpool here we come), Internet & Political campaigning (this one was mine but I could see the eyes glaze over when mentioning Super Tuesday, Twitter, Spinvox to some who arn't sure what YouTube and Facebook are). Maybe something on railways - an industry that receives a lot of public money and could be better run on more beneficial mutual lines (see forthcoming Social Enterprise and the Railways Conference by the Co-op Party in Swindon).

However it's making suitable time in people's busy agendas that's the issue.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

February / March fixtures

DidsburyNow that winter isn't over! It was Candlemass / Groundhog Day yesterday and if any hedgehog got up it would have definately have seen its own shadow and hibernated for another six weeks. But we're of sterner stuff.

Thursday 7th February
2000h Hardy Lane, Chorlton
Withington Co-op Party AGM. Business is brief and the highlight is trying to put a realistic programme of events for the year. Suggestions?

Friday 8th February
1900h for 1930h Sangam 2, Didsbury
Fundraising Dinner with Ed Balls MP (Labour / Co-op) - a few tickets still available.

Wednesday 27th February 1830h for 1900h Blue Box Theatre, Chorlton
Black Gold film (74 minutes) organised with The Co-operative, South Manchester Members Group and ourselves. Free admission to all. Part of Fairtrade Fortnight

Saturday 15th March 1330h Castlefield Hotel, Manchester
Area Party AGM with guest speaker Sean Fensom on Retailing & The Internet (an ever growing way of doing business).

Picture is of the new Co-operative look in Didsbury - the picture in blue fascia taken last year is here.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

UK Politics on You Tube

You Tube is very much an extra tv channel. Just check the number of times it is quoted in the tv and print media though very often it's minor criminal types filming their activities and wondering why they got caught.

The UK Politics Channel was launched last week by Gordon Brown with a video (1 min 16 seconds).
So far we have the Labour Party, Webcameronuk (worth a visit), Green Party, Sinn Fein and Respect. A cross-section but where are the nationalist parties, and maybe the Co-operative Party could think about joining in too with some short, inexpensive talking head footage. I'll stress the concept short - some of the material available to view is nearly 15 minutes long which doesn't suit squinting at a PC with other distractions going on.
UK Politics Channel

Co-ops UK NW more than think

Speaker Spent an afternoon at the Co-op UK North West meeting - a get together of all co-operatives in this part of the planet. We got the big names speaking first - Pauline Green from Co-ops UK, and Moira Lees from Co-operative Group. After a break you get me, as seen in the photo. It's only when I got home that I found out someone had used my camera to take the picture. That's co-operation for you. A very positive and inspirational meeting. There are more mutuals out there than you'll ever read about - met growers from Growing With Grace, Salford Leisure, Supporters Direct, Huyton Elderley Housing. Just a few notes..Pauline Green stating that co-operatives arn't an alternative to doing business they are a better way of doing business...Moira Lees pointing out that people are calling for co-operative solutions giving this just this week's examples of fans of Liverpool FC wanting to do their own buy out, and the residents on tiny Eigg with their community energy solution.