Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Why did Labour do so little about mutuals?


I was delighted to hear from my old friend and former Southport councillor David Tattersall. He has been following the postings on mutuals/employee ownership and has been reflecting on why Labour made so little progress on this agenda. I was always struck that where they did speak of mutuals it was in relationship to de-nationalizing public services. That certainly seems to be the case when they set  up the Ownership Commission. Norman Lamb speculated that trade union objections scuppered progress.  Labour's antipathy goes back a long way to the Webbs who opposed producer co-ops preferring not to trust workers and putting their faith in state ownership. David writes:

I've been reading the various diaries (three books) of  "left winger" Chris Mullin, MP Sunderland South (1987-2010) and some of the quotes below might be worth  including in your blog.    Chris Mullin's classic political thriller novel "A very British Coup" won a Bafta and other awards and he wrote the book "Error of Judgement - the truth about the Birmingham Bombings", the subject on which he successfully campaigned tirelessly for justice.
 
"I fully support your recent blog about our party's longstanding support for mutuals. Something we should shout out loud at the current time ! 
 
 But if you Google the Co-operative Party and search you will find some negative and misleading stuff about us and the coalition and our claimed lack of interest in mutuals.  As a "sister party" of Labour, with, I think from memory, some 30 "Labour and Co-operative MPs", including Mr Balls, what did Labour achieve during its long period of office to promote mutuals and workers co-operatives ?  And the co-op give thousands of pounds every year to Labour !!
 
On this subject, Chris Mullin, a former government minister, says in his diary January 1996:" All the little Blairites are rushing around talking about the stakeholder economy as though they have been familiar with the concept all their lives." He adds that another MP said to him: " If stakeholding is such a good idea, why have we had nothing to say about the destruction of 'mutuality' in the building societies? - surely the very essence of stakeholding."
 
Mullin adds: " Quite so. The reason is, of course, because the societies are handing out big dollops of money to their members in exchange for their acquiescence and we dare not offend the middle classes by uttering home truths about greed and short-termism."

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