Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The major UK political party that you’ve probably never heard of

What if I told you that there was a British political party that has 32 sitting members of parliament (MPs) and 18 Lords, that gets almost no media coverage and very few people know about? And that some of those MPs could form the next government?

The party in question is the Co-operative Party, and it is linked with the wider co-operative movement in Britain. The party is almost 100 years old, having been founded in 1917, and politicians in the party are funded by the profits from retail co-operative societies. This includes the Co-operative Group, who operate Co-operative Food, Co-operative Pharmacy, Co-operative Travel and Co-operative Funeralcare, along with a share of the Co-operative Bank.

Some of their more well known MPs include Ed Balls, the current shadow chancellor, Alun Michael, previously the First Secretary for Wales, and my local MP for Halifax, Linda Riordan.

“But,” you may be thinking, “Ed Balls is a Labour party politician!” Yes, he is. Indeed, all of the MPs that are in the Co-operative Party are also in the Labour Party. When they stand for election, the party will be listed as ‘Labour Co-operative‘ – the Co-operative Party does not put candidates up for election on its own. This is an arrangement that has been in place since 1927.

In Westminster, this makes the Co-operative Party the fourth largest party, ahead of the Democratic Unionists (a Northern Irish Party) and the Scottish Nationalist Party. In particular, it means that the Co-operative Party is far more influential in British politics than the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), with no MPs, and the Green Party, with one MP, who are both regarded as having claims for being the fourth-placed party in Britain.

It’s a shame that so few people know about the Co-operative Party as the focus is on its Labour sister. You can find out more about them on their web site.

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