Friday, 9 November 2007

It's all at the Co-op now - including Dave

At one time the Co-operative Party, the political arm of the Labour movement, was a separate entity from the Labour Party, but not for long. It became an affiliate of the Labour Party and something of a rotten borough (John Stonehouse, who tried to stage his own disappearance to avoid criminal proceedings, was one of its MPs). There are still technically 29 Co-op MPs who receive financial assistance from the Co-op.

The Co-op used to be a very big part of everyday life (see It Was All At The Co-op. (Scroll down) It's still a significant retail player, particularly in insurance and funerals.

Now David Cameron has launched the Conservative Co-operative Movement to help people run their own public services. Defending this foray into traditional Labour territory, the Conservative leader said: 'The co-operative principle captures precisely the vision of progress that we on the centre-right believe in: the idea of social responsibility, that we're all in this together, that there is such a thing as society - it's not just the same thing as the state.'

The reference to society is a direct repudiation of Mrs Thatcher's statement that 'there is no such thing as society' in her Women's Own interview. Actually, like many statements of this kind, it has been taken out of context, Mrs Thatcher's point being that things like family and community were more comprehensible to most people than abstractions like society.

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