Illness prevented me from attending Saturday’s Co-operative Group AGM in Manchester as I’d intended, unfortunately, so I can’t offer you any first-hand reportage of the occasion. But two observations.
Firstly, just the fact that for the first time the Co-operative Group had an AGM like this which was open to members is a real step forward. It was always nonsense that the Group’s AGM was previously only open to those enmeshed in the complicated internal regional and area governance structure. This is a valuable reform. This year’s AGM is something to build on.
And secondly, I’ve been mulling over a recent quote from the Group’s Chair Allan Leighton. Leighton, according to a Guardian article, claimed: “It’s the apples, not the activists, that will turn the Co-op around”.
I think Leighton has it half-right. I’d love to see better fruit and veg in my local Co-op store. I never did understand why, every Autumn at the heart of the harvest time, English apples were nowhere to be found in the shop (actually, to be fair, a few English apples crept in last year).
But I’d change Leighton’s quote in one fundamental way. The advantage the Co-op potentially has over its commercial rivals is exactly its membership base and its latent democracy. I’d say that it’s the apples and the activists that will turn the Co-op around.