Opinion: The Preston model is marred by partisan politics and doomed to fail


The Preston Skyline from the River Ribble Pic: Tony Worrall

This is a guest post from Bill Shannon, former Liberal Democrat Councilor and Honorary Alderman for the City of Preston.


Councilor Matthew Brown has received a lot of publicity for his model Preston, and has now co-authored a book with Rhian E. Jones, Paint Your Town Red, which claims to show “how Preston took back control.” Unfortunately, no rhetoric and controversy can make up for the lack of evidence of quantifiable results in the book.

Apparently, every recent achievement within Preston shows The Model to work – but there’s no evidence that this has had an impact on some of the “ hits ” that the Preston City Council chief sings about. Claiming credit for the accomplishments of others (for example, setting up cooperatives at the local level) is not the same as delivering those accomplishments yourself.

Make no mistake, building community wealth is a great idea! If only we can mobilize the public, private, cooperative and nonprofit sectors in a local area to work together for the good of that area, “outsource” and maintain local wealth. However, where this idea originally came from, the Cleveland model, not only was it not a “ political party, ” but it relied heavily on a significant philanthropic contribution which Preston notably lacks. .

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Likewise, the much-cited Mondragon Corporation is not involved in local politics. In contrast, Matthew Brown is an old-fashioned old-work politician. Not only does he attack New Labor (p.46), he returns nostalgically to Jeremy Corbyn’s time – and even quotes Lenin for his overview of the current situation (p.38)!

It cannot resist the urge to politicize the idea of ​​building community wealth and in so doing alienates local and national businessmen whose contribution and commitment are essential to the model, but who do not wish to be associated with something that is so clearly associated with a party.

Matthew would be the first to admit that he is a socialist: but he then tries to drag co-operatives into his socialist vision, not fully recognizing that co-operatives are “ the third way ”, as different from socialism as they are. are capitalism.

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My own professional life has been spent entirely in the cooperative sector and I continue to be passionate about cooperative solutions to today’s problems – but from its origins, Rochdale’s pioneers have embraced the principle of political neutrality; and more recently, the International Co-operative Alliance reaffirmed this unequivocal neutrality.

Speaking of “ Paint Your Town Red ” and linking the Preston model so tightly to socialism, Matthew makes sure that the idea will fail the next time another party takes over the city hall of Preston. To be successful despite changes in political makeup, building community wealth must be depoliticized. It should be overseen by a committee representing the public, private, cooperative and not-for-profit sectors, chaired by someone untainted by political parties, who can be the public face of the Preston model, and who can perhaps look to secure that philanthropic contribution that Preston so sorely misses.

I don’t want the Preston model to fail, and I’m sure Matthew neither – but the only way to ensure its long-term continuity is for Matthew to step down from his leadership.

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Have you read Paint Your Town Red? What did you think of the book? Let us know in the comments.

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