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Co-op Party launches consultation on Northern Ireland

The Co-operative Party is launching a consultation into its position on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland.

Like the Labour Party, the Co-operative Party is registered with the Electoral Commission to field candidates in elections in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) but not in Northern Ireland. Members of Labour can be members of the Co-operative Party, and there is a long-standing electoral agreement which allows candidates to stand as ‘Labour and Co-operative’.

However Labour is currently reviewing whether or not to stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland – which will raise questions for the Co-operative Party.

The Co-operative Party and Northern Ireland

In 2008, the Co-operative Party NEC agreed to establish the Northern Ireland Co-operative Party – and since 2009, members of Northern Ireland’s SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) have been permitted to join the Co-operative Party, to reflect the the SDLPs membership of the Party of European Socialists and its long-standing relationship with the Labour Party.

In Northern Ireland, members of the Co-operative Party may stand for election as SDLP candidates – though not as ‘SDLP and Co-operative’. There is currently one SDLP MLA and a small number of SDLP councillors who are members of the Co-operative Party.

Members of the Co-operative Party in Northern Ireland meet regularly and occasionally hold joint meetings with the Labour Party in Northern Ireland. Recently, general secretary Claire McCarthy other representatives of the Party met with credit unions, housing associations and worker co-ops.

The consultation

As well as asking whether Labour should field candidates in Northern Ireland, and how this could benefit or disadvantage the Co-operative Party, the consultation explores what the Co-operative Party should do if Labour decides to go ahead. It could stand candidates jointly with Labour, jointly with SLDP, jointly with both, as Co-op Party only – or not stand candidates at all.

Claire McCarthy, general secretary of the Co-operative Party

“Whichever path the Labour Party chooses to take, the decision about how the Co-operative Party proceeds is a matter for the Co-operative Party – its NEC and members,” said Ms McCarthy.

“The Co-operative Party’s NEC has agreed that in considering these matters, our key objective will be to determine what course will be most effective in securing our primary purpose – to promote and protect the co-operative model. We want to hear from all members of the Co-operative Party in Northern Ireland during this consultation process.”

The consultation also looks at the types of elections that could be contested (local government, Assembly only, Westminster elections only, local government and Assembly but not Westminster, all of them) and the other ways the Party’s policies, ideals and the work of the co-operative movement could be promoted in Northern Ireland.

History: William Thompson
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