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The Coop group is in a mess: deal with it

coopI’m angry that the Co-op group is in a mess.

As a member I have been let down.

As a customer of the bank they’ve failed me.

As a believer in the co-op approach to business I am disappointed that flagship co-op has failed so many other successful co-ops by its actions.

I am annoyed that an individual can be allowed to do so much harm.

But let’s be clear about what I’m most annoyed about, and that’s that the Co-op Group let itself be used.

It was used to save the Britannia.

It let the government use it to try to solve the problem of Lloyds branches.

It let itself be used by bondholders who it should have avoided (surely Northern Rock taught that).

It should have known better.

It should have stuck with a cooperative banking model.

It should have shied away from the financing deals that meant it used tax havens (and it has).

It should have been content to take lower risk.

It should have delivered what its members wanted, and no more.

And if there is to be an investigation that should be the focus. It had a job to do, which was to serve its members, and it tried to do more. It got out of its depth when it did so. It was corrupted in the process. It did not do what it could do best. Corporatism and not cooperation got the better of it.

The lesson is a simple one: principles matter and sticking to areas of competence is vital.

That’s the lesson here.

I hope it’s learned. And if the Co-op Bank has to be sold to achieve the aim, so be it. And if the rest of the co-op movement has to turn on the Co-op Group, so be it. It will be annoying. But that’s life.

What it’s not is the issue David Cameron is pretending it is. But what is of concern is the role of his government in making the crisis what it has become. For that he has questions to answer.



  1. swatantra says:

    Thats not the logo for the Coop Group! Its got new branding! I’m also very disappointed, and very angry that i’ve been let down All my savings are in the Bank, because I believed it and the persons running it had high standards.
    The Group itself was conned by various Govts to take on Britannia and Lloyds TSB. It should have stuck to what it did best, small convenience store in the gHigh street and not compete with the Big Boys in the Supermarket League. Thats the 2nd time in 15 years the Cooperative has desparately sought for a role in the modern market. It should have stuck to what it does best.
    One big problem was that the individual members didn’t really have that much of a say; and Area Committee elected members were virtually invisable outside their committees. That has to change.
    What disgusts me is that Cameron is playing politics with peoples hard earned money and savings and jobs, judst to score a couple of points. Cameron is running down the whole Coop Movement and creating a crisis of confidence in the Nabk and the Group. That behaviour is disgraceful.

  2. Matty says:

    A good post. The Co-op Group has a lineage since 1844, there is no need to panic about this setback. However, its democracy could improve. As ever, the people at the top tend to take a we know best attitude.

  3. James Martin says:

    The issue of democracy is being pushed the most by the traditional enemies of the cooperative model in the media and City. The problem is that the model has failed, but not for the reasons the right-wing commentators are suggesting (they believe it is the fault of democracy false stop).

    The failure was actually because there has been too little democracy and membership control, not to much. The Blairites have long controlled the Co-op Party, and through that ensured that their favoured candidates were elected onto local co-op group boards when it mattered as they are the only organised faction within the Coop Party/group itself. This absolute control led the co-op into the ridiculous position of supporting both the marketization of the NHS (via foundation trusts) and the break up of state education (via academies). It also led to cronyism and an old-boys network or careerists and expenses grabbers to dominate the organisation in much the same way as they used to dominate the PLP.

    The control of any of these people, or the policies they pursued, by ordinary Co-op Party and Co-op group members was minimal or non-existent.

    We deserved much better – not because the cooperative model could ever replace capitalism without wider socialist change, but because it could and still can help protect workers against the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation. However, the right-wing in control of the Co-op Party and therefore by default the Co-op group have ensured that the organisation could not even manage that.

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