'The first stepping-stone to a professional career'

What do Sue Pollard, Lord Attenborough, Peter Bottomley, Compo, Betty Boothroyd, Sean Connery, Alan Bennett, Seamus Heaney, Michael Palin, and, it is rumoured, Maureen Lipman and Alan Rickman have in common? They could, in a small way, help decide the fate of the Co-op, writes Chris Hughes.

As Co-op members, they and 8 million others elect the CWS board who will have to sit in judgement on Andrew Regan, if he ever gets around to bidding for the business.

"My mother was a member of the Co-op, of course. Where I came from, everyone was, except the Tories," says Bill Owen, who plays Compo in Last of the Summer Wine. "The Co-op was the first stepping stone to a professional career."

Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP for Eltham, has been a Co-op member for 22 years. Sean Connery was a Co-op milkman and Sue Pollard, star of Hi-de-Hi, was once a check-out girl in the Nottingham Co-op.

Lord Attenborough's parents were members in Leicester and he adjudicated the annual Co-operative Queen contest. Michael Palin's big break came when he won best gentleman's performance in the 1962 Leeds Co-op drama festival. Betty Boothroyd recalls her mother using part of the "divi", the members' dividend payment, to pay for her first dancing lessons.

The Co-operative Wholesale Society is not a simple organisation. It is made up of 51 independent Co-operative retailers, or "societies" and a handful of co-operative retailers owned directly by the CWS, each of which elects a representative to sit on the CWS board.

"It's fearsomely complicated. You would never set up an organisation like this today. But we are the victim of our history," said Iain Williamson of the Co-Op Union.

It costs pounds 1 to become a Co-op member, which grants them a share of the annual profits and the right to vote each other to their society's board.

Martin Henderson, CWS spokesman, said: "It's like the general election. A pounds 1 share buys you a voting right to elect a representative. It can't be used to overturn the government or change what's in progress.

"An offer of cash to members to demutualise would really only be effective if they were on the board. And it can take up to three years for a member to make their way up to the board," he says.

Mr Regan's proposals would need the approval of 75 per cent of the CWS board's members. They would in turn need the support of 75 per cent of the board of their own society.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

£45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on