The Co-operative Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom supporting co-operative values and principles. Established in 1917, the Co-operative Party was founded by co-operative societies to politically campaign for the fairer treatment of co-operative enterprise and to elect co-operators to Parliament. The Party’s roots lie in the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Union established in 1881.
Since 1927 the Co-operative Party has had an electoral pact with the Labour Party, with both parties agreeing not to stand candidates against each other. Instead candidates selected by members of both parties contest elections using the description of Labour and Co-operative Party. The Co-operative Party is a legally separate entity from the Labour Party, and is registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission. Co-operative Party members are not permitted to be members of any other political party in the UK apart from the Labour Party and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in Northern Ireland.
The Co-operative Party is arguably the fourth largest party in the House of Commons with 26 Members of Parliament, although as all of its MPs sit in the Parliamentary Labour Party, this distinction is not often made. It also has representatives in the House of Lords, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local government.
In keeping with its co-operative values and principles, the Co-operative Party does not have a leader like other political parties. Instead, Gareth Thomas serves as Chair of the National Executive Committee, Claire McCarthy as General Secretary, and Gavin Shuker as Chair of the Co-operative Party Group of Parliamentarians.
Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by their members. Whether these members are customers, employees or local residents, all are given an equal say in what the business does or a share in the profits. 1 billion people across the world are members of co-operatives, and often describe themselves as ‘co-operators’. The original principles that co-operatives must adhere to were set out by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, and are still in use today.
As the political party of the co-operative movement the party works in partnership with the Labour Party to achieve these aims. There are 26 Labour & Co-operative MPs in Westminster and representatives in devolved and local government across the UK. Together, they are ensuring that co-operative and mutual values are at the heart of British politics.
Co-Operative Party Website