We need a ‘John Lewis Economy’

With sharing and mutuality rising up the agenda, the popular retailer provides an important political model.

Whilst issues like Europe and immigration create significant media coverage and comment, it is clear that as polling day approaches, it is still the economy – stupid.  Whether or not the Coalition’s ‘long term economic plan’ (which has actually been at least 2 plans so far because the Chancellor keeps missing his own targets and then changing course) or Labour’s ‘better plan’ is the right one to get Britain on the road to recovery will clearly be at the front of many voter’s minds as they walk into the polling station.

The two Ed’s have clearly won some of the key economic arguments – even if this hasn’t translated into a comfortable or sustained poll lead.   Labour recognised that significant swathes of the population were suffering a cost of living crisis long before the PM went to the CBI conference to ask British business to give workers a much needed pay rise.  Labour was also rightly pointing out that we need an economic recovery in every region and nation long before ‘northern powerhouse’ became the Chancellors second favourite soundbite.

But the big question is how to deliver both more better paid secure jobs and economic growth beyond the city of London.  The Co-operative Party’s Agenda for Britain makes the case that part of the answer lies in the creation of a ‘John Lewis economy’ where workers have a greater share in the ownership, decision making and profits of Britain’s businesses.  Employee ownership and profit sharing incentivise staff to work towards raising company performance and rewards them fairly when they are successful. Shared decision-making allows employees and managers to work together to resolve problems and raise productivity.   The French model of compulsory profit sharing for all employees in companies with more than 50 staff is credited in part for their relatively high productivity rates – which incidentally out-perform our own.  Since the economic crisis of 2008 both the employee owned and co-operative sectors have out-performed the rest of the economy.

An economy where more companies were owned by their employees, where more new companies were set up as co-operatives, where it is easier for employees to take over the companies they work for, and where all large, successful companies share the fruits of their employees labour would be one in which ordinary working families weren’t being left behind.  As we seek to restore the link between hard work, reward and an ethical approach to business, there has never been a time in which co-operative values have been more important. As we emerge from more than a decade of falling living standards, we need to pioneer this new approach to business; that will ensure that all people will be able to share in its reward.

This is the Co-operative Party’s ambition for country’s economic future and we hope to have a strong presence in the next Parliament to make the case for it.

The Co-operative Party is the political arm of the co-operative movement and sister Party to the Labour Party.  The Party currently has 31 MPs and is standing a further 14 Parliamentary candidates at the election.