In 1917, the co-operative movement decided to establish the Co-operative Party as the most effective way for it to have a political voice inside parliament.
Because of the shared values and historic roots between the labour and co-operative movements, in 1927 the Co-operative Party formed a strategic electoral agreement with the Labour Party which has continued until present day. This has enabled the Co-operative movement to be represented in Parliament and within government when otherwise it would have not.
The Co-operative Party does provide some financial support to the campaigns of individual MPs and Councillors. These candidates are separately selected by local members of both the Labour and Co-operative Parties, and therefore stand for election as ‘Labour & Co-operative’.
There are many Labour MPs who are also members of the Co-operative Party (see below). Labour & Co-operative MPs are those who have been selected by both their local Co-operative Party and Labour Party to stand as an ‘official’ candidate.
Co-operative Party candidates are selected from a National Parliamentary Panel, onto which any Party member can apply. There are currently 37 Labour Co-operative MPs.
Constituencies which select a Labour & Co-operative candidate may receive a financial contribution from the Co-operative Party towards election expenses. These contributions are reported and recorded by the Electoral Commission in the same manner as any other election expense. In total, funding for politicians amounts to less than 8% of the Co-operative Party’s income.
The remaining 92% is used to build the Co-operative Party itself, run its democracy and provide a policy development function. This includes a national office with 11 staff, support for local Co-operative Parties and individual members, as well as developing and promoting influential policies in areas such as rail mutualisation, community energy and co-operative schools.
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