Theresa May called the General Election three years before she needed to in the expectation of winning by a landslide. As we now know, she lost her majority instead. People across the country have had enough of relentless and unfair cuts, widening inequality, and after the Brexit vote we also know they’ve had enough of politics as usual.
In a sense, every party lost the general election. Labour far exceeded expectations and enthused young people in particular, but with only a 2% swing from the Conservatives to Labour we remain far from power. People are crying out for change, but so far haven’t trusted either major party to deliver it. That’s why our co-operative approach has such a big role to play in the future of politics.
Power is over-centralised in the hands of very few in Parliament, public services and the economy. Trust in politics broke with the financial crash in 2007 and has never fully recovered. People are no longer prepared to cede decision-making about their own lives to a political system they no longer trust. Co-operative politics offers a way through this by asking politicians to trust the people instead.
Our co-operative councils are putting this ethos into effect, making it real and showing how powerful it can be. Croydon’s developing a community land trust, Edinburgh are giving tenants more ways to influence decisions about where they live, Stevenage are championing community budgeting, Lambeth have set up a community youth trust led by young people. In these and so many more cases, co-op councils are showing that trusting people isn’t just good politics, it leads to better services, stronger communities, and delivers better value for money too.
At the heart of the co-operative councils movement is the principle of doing things with people instead of doing things to people. Instead of locking communities out of decision-making, we share power with them so we can unleash the innovation, creativity and energy that every community possesses.
Trust in politics is at breaking point and the country feels more divided than ever before. We offer a way forward that’s radical and credible, and in tune with our less deferential more digitally enabled world. And it’s based on a very simple and very democratic principle: trust the people.
Steve Reed OBE MP – Labour and Co-operative
Shadow Minister for Civil Society
Honorary President of the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network