Having spent Wednesday evening sitting on the Lambeth naughty step throughout the #labourleader hustings organised by our friends from @LambethLabour, I thought it only polite to put my questions to the politicians come the close of the debate. I didn’t want to get in the way of democracy as the card carrying Comrades were enthralled by the Famous Five.
This *wasn’t* my meeting – I was there as an interested observer, to see if accountability on the national Labour level is any better than @LambethLabour make it out to be back in the local patch.
It was more like a wake for Nu Labour than a #labourleader debate to be honest. The beast was put out of its misery in a sweltering Brixton back room. The onlookers that still believe in the Third Way folly here in Lambeth were left scratching their heads and wiping their brows.
Once the final dagger had been drawn from the rotting corpse of Nu Labour (um, by bloody Ed Miliband) then the members of @LambethLabour regrouped, gossiped and probably pondered where this leaves right wing politics back in the Rotten Borough.
But I found something else. I found Ed Balls.
I was actually rather intrigued with what the former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has to say about *shhh* co-operation. Balls answered a question put forward by @artystar about the political value of co-ops with plenty of passion.
The MP for Normanton puts himself up as a Co-op MP, a rather strange derivative given that he is standing to be leader of the Labour party. It now seems that the co-op prefix is the current buzzword within the centre ground of British politics.
Balls stated during the hustings that he is the first ever Co-op MP to stand as a candidate for the Labour leadership, as well as the first ever Co-operative MP to be a cabinet minister.
Which must have made him the authority in the room on a balmy Brixton midweek evening to assess the value of #lambethcoop. I wanted to speak to Ed Balls and try get an understanding of how his co-operative vision fits in with #lambethcoop.
Hustings over, off the leash and free to have a word with our man from the co-op.
It was jolly decent of Ed to agree for a brief chat. He spoke of how his work as a minister involved the setting up of co-operative schools, and how co-operative politics is part of his political values.
“The co-op is also the conscience of Labour party”
Which must mean that Ed Balls is best placed to evaluate how well placed #lambethcoop is to fight off those nasty ConDem cuts, and to help save money for the citizens of the borough. This is after all the aim stated by @lambeth_council on the co-operative page of the council website:
“The recent, severe recession has opened up a huge hole in the nation’s finances and councils will be expected to do more with less and work more closely with other public sector partners.”
“I believe this is an exciting moment for local government as we step up to the challenge of the looming cuts in public spending.”
But what of Ed Balls, a Co-operative party MP and a serious challenger for the leadership of the national Labour Party. I put the question to him, asking is #lambethcoop the solution to cut costs locally?
“If I’m honest with you, no… I don’t think it’s a way to save money to be honest. Cutting corners is not what a co-operative council is about. Does being a co-operator save money in public services? I’m not sure that it will. I think that it might actually encourage us to spend more money for local people.”
“If you want to be a co-operative council then you’ve got to be local, you’ve got to be listening, you’ve got to engage. You need to trust people to take a few risks every now and then.”
I’m not quite sure how we got round to talking about the co-op bank in answer to my question of the lack of citizens on the Citizen’s Commission, and I’m not sure that Ed had the answer anyway.
So yeah – #lambethcoop is “not a way to save money” and it might “encourage us to spend more money.”
So said the man from the #labourleader co-op.