As the Member of the Senedd for Islwyn, I am incredibly proud to represent the community where I was born and raised as their Welsh Labour & Co-operative MS.
The Co-operative movement has always been a bed rock for the valley communities that I was born within, running like the seam of coal and steel underpinning the Islwyn towns and villages that I represent. It has been a golden (or should I say purple) thread across the century.
It was people like my nan, a factory worker from the mining families of Islwyn, and her sister Ethel, the first female bus ‘conductor’, who relied on co-ops. They created the Newbridge Memo, which hosted Paul Robeson, and used our credit unions and mutuals – which in turn sustained my nan and her sister in the dark days before our NHS. But the co-operative movement is not a thing of the past. Today it is very alive and never more vibrant. And its purpose is clear, symbiotic and intertwined with our socialist principals that I passionately believe are as relevant now as a hundred years ago.
The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the most severe repression of our liberty and our way of life outside of war time. The crisis is far from over – we know that the economic shock that will result from the necessary lockdown measures will cause huge stresses to communities still reeling from a decade of Tory UK Government austerity; and that is without factoring the prospect of a No Deal EU exit and what that will mean for the poorest in our society.
At this iconic and important juncture in our national life, the co-operative movement is again innovating with fresh thinking about how we can ensure that our poorest communities are not left behind.
The Co-operative Party report ‘Owning The Future: The Co-operative Plan for Recovery’ will be required reading for all Welsh policy makers and politicians, and it is right that the First Minister of Wales spoke to it when he addressed our movement last month.
Covid-19 has sharply exposed the range and scale of inequality that is endemic in our capitalist society. The instinctive co-operative out-pouring from the communities – across Islwyn from Crumlin to Cross Keys – demonstrates that people want a better way to work, live and play than the old traditional paradigms allow.
When Islwyn, Wales and the co-operative movement have been faced with fierce and wicked challenge, they have always responded with new thinking, fresh focus and a determination to lift our people up so that they enjoy a better tomorrow. I know that with your help and compassion we will continue to do what the co-operative movement has always done – work to build and own a better future – Our Future Together.