David Cameron looks set to resurrect an idea beloved of the old socialist left as he and other Conservatives attempt to embrace and extend the co-operative movement.
The suggestion is that co-ops could be set-up to run local public services including schools in England whilst being funded by the state but owned by parents and the community. Cameron said that co-ops would provide the “flexibility and dynamism that a central state agency lacks”
Solutions for A Broken Society?
As part of Cameron’s theme of tackling a ‘broken society’ the ‘quiet man’ Iain Duncan Smith unveiled a report into the social breakdown of the city of Manchester and suggested that it would be an ideal candidate for such a radical series of local solutions aimed , presumably, at getting local people involved in possible solutions which the Conservatives would see as a catalyst to seeding a more cohesive community than the socially divided Manchester that they currently identify.
It’s enough to inflict a nervous twitch on gnarled old anarcho-syndicalists such as myself though we would need to define the boundaries between local solutions and central funding especially if it could survive potential funding favouritism and bias in allocations inherent in any central government sourced funding.
The co-operative Party
The British Co-operative party, a small socialist political party has itself commented on David Cameron’s speech and accused the Conservative party of still being “the party of the individual” and of “private profit – not collective action”.
History Of Co-operatives
Co-operatives are a movement fathered by Welshman Robert Owen who began the practical implementation of co-operatives in the late 18 century within his cotton mills in Lanark , Scotland. Dr William King developed Owen’s idea further and various co-operative implementations increased before tailing off after the mid 20th Century as the successive political emphasis was placed on the individual over and above the needs of the many and the notion of ‘society’ in the traditional sense changed with people striving to maximise personal gain seen as the most effective motivation for political change.
With the Conservative party struggling to define themselves in a political landscape that has seen New Labour take on many of their traditional ideas it would seem that raiding part of the ideologies and ideas of the old left is fair game for their re-interpretation.