With the media obsessing today about the Co-operative Group’s AGM in Manchester, I feel almost obliged to add my own short blog.
Journalists like a simple story, and have built up today’s event as a make-or-break occasion. It’s certainly significant, but only one step on the road to a new governance structure for the Group. My two predictions are these: the motions before delegates will pass, and the Myners proposal won’t in the end be implemented as it stands. What will happen after today is a period of further discussion (ie, compromise). What will emerge will be something which gives the regional coop societies more of a role and (I hope, although this is perhaps less certain) produces a board which is not simply made up of executive directors and traditional business-background non-executives but also includes a cohort of ‘ordinary’ elected member-directors.
I was at yesterday’s Cooperative Renewal conference, where ex-CWS chief executive Graham Melmoth weighed in to the debate. His comment on today’s event was as follows: “The [Special General Meeting] motion I think has sufficient elasticity to permit a short filtering process to be introduced into the Reform Architecture without unduly impeding progress, eg a small group of Members would be commissioned by the Board to review the Myners Report, reflect on it and produce a final blueprint”.
Elasticity is the key word here. In other words, there is still much to play for.
However, governance is just one aspect of the necessary renewal of the Group. I was arguing yesterday at the Renewal conference that a root-and-branch reform of the corporate culture of the organisation is even more important… and perhaps more difficult to bring about. More on that another day, perhaps.