The quote from Gordon Brown (the first prime minister to be a member of the Co-operative Party, though not a Co-op MP) on the party’s home page sums it up well:
The Co-operative Party stands for fair trade, for ethical business and for people having a say in the running of their communities.
I’ve long been interested in “non-statist” versions of leftwing politics (ever since aftermath of the 1992 election defeat), and find the Co-op values of mutualism, self-help, democratic control, voluntarism and co-operation appealing. (I’ve always been glad that my bike was build and sold by a co-operative, for example!)
As I may have mentioned before, part of the appeal of the Co-operative Party is precisely that it is not presenting a comprehensive plan for transforming society from top to bottom; that its aims are comparatively modest: the promotion, encouragement and facilitation of more ways for people to work together in cooperation with one another, within the context of a mixed economy that will continue to be dominated by capitalist enterprises for the foreseeable future.
It’s also, on a personal level, a means to align myself with what I’d see as the many good things to have been achieved by this and previous Labour governments, while at the same time having a degree of critical distance from Labour’s biggest flaws: it’s centralising, statist and even authoritarian tendencies, all of which the Co-operative Party has sought to work against over its history.
Finally, it’s a lot cheaper than joining the Labour Party, but let’s not mention that slightly unworthy factor… 😉