The Coop Party already has 31 MPs in Parliament, making them the fourth largest party, yet you will be forgiven for not knowing who they are. As a sister party of Labour they run on a joint platform called ‘Labour Coop’. But what does the Coop stand for? Does it really make a difference within Labour? And do Coop values and Islamic values overlap? Sarmad Jawad sat down with the Chair of the Coop, Gareth Thomas MP, to find out.
So what does the Coop offer Muslims? According to Thomas, a lot. The Coop’s biggest policy for the upcoming election is entrenched with Islamic principles. The Coop wants companies with 50+ employees to share profits with its employees, or as they like to call it, a John Lewis economy. Islamic principles encourage wealth to be distributed pre-production, i.e. companies should pay their employees based on the wealth they create, not on how much they accept being paid and pocketing the rest.
“There are examples of companies that are profitable, durable and have higher job satisfaction rates that share their profits with their employees,” Thomas said . When it was pointed it out to Thomas that profit-sharing could stifle innovation, Thomas dismissed such claims by listing successful companies that share profits, including the “provocative” Navy Federal.
The Coop also champions other radical, but principled, policies, such as the Rohin Hood tax (a tax that is supported by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and over 1,000 economists, read here) and the Land Value Tax (a progressive tax on land, read here).
But if someone is to vote for the Coop, will it really be able to implement these proposals? The Coop seeks to win arguments within Labour, and push their candidates further up the Labour hierarchy, so it can achieve its aims. Is the Coop a pressure group within Labour? (Thomas’ answer came back sharply) “No, we have our own agenda and we are working from within to achieve it”. That sounds great, but what are the Coop’s biggest achievements since 1997? “We’ve managed to build 1000 Cooperative schools, converted leading football clubs into supporter-owned clubs (including Swansea City FC, a Premier League side) and reformed the law to allow Coop businesses to function like normal businesses”.
What about you, you’re the chair of Coop and a Shadow Minister, how have you influenced Labour recently? Thomas says he is proud that he convinced Ed Miliband to tax pay-day lenders to raise money for credit unions.
The Muslim News pointed out that these achievements, albeit positive, are no where near as radical as the ones the Coop are proposing. “We are ambitious,” Thomas replied, “and we will try to win the debate within Labour.”
“The Coop is about giving as much power as possible to the people,” Thomas says, a cliché if there ever was one. But the Coop takes this idea to its radical end. They believe that railways are run as a partnership between passengers and staff, people coming together to form credit unions, locals having a say in the local NHS (not on clinical decisions, Thomas is quick to point out), the examples are endless. This seems like a huge number of arguments that you need to win within Labour? “We need to build the case for each of those arguments. Look the past decade has shown the need for an alternative way to running the country, the Coop is proposing this.”
Thomas thinks that Muslims would be attracted to the Coop because Muslim and Coop values “lean the same way”. On issues such as ethical business and finance, empowerment of the individual, pooling the communities’ resources to support the community, Thomas thinks there’s significant overlap between the Coop and Muslims. “I would support a Muslim credit union that borrows money interest-free,” Thomas added.
The Coop Party does not run independently, if you want to vote Coop check if your local candidate is a ‘Labour Coop’ candidate. If they are not ask them about their Coop principles.
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