Last weekend l was in Edinburgh at the Co-op Party conference for the launch of its manifesto “A Co-operative Agenda for a Fourth Term” (pdf here). Now I have often thought that developing ideas for the future often means going back to old ideals and principles, particularly in light of the failure of the global capital markets. A manifesto to change the culture of our financial institutions is a must, and we can start by returning former building societies to the mutual sector. The remutualisation of the likes of Northern Rock will embed much needed stability in our economy.
The principle of mutuality is also applicable in other arenas like housing and energy. In housing it can mean mutual home ownership through housing co-ops and community land trusts holding and managing assets collectively, while residents are individually both tenants and shareholders. In the energy markets we could have co-operative energy schemes, whereby we enable local communities to buy their own energy collectively, saving them money and helping boost the take-up of green energy. More so after feed-in tariffs come into play next April.
Co-operation and mutuality maybe seen by some as retro, but their time has definitely come again.