For industry folk with long memories, and this writer is among them, the speeches at last weekend's Co-op Congress in Birmingham had a familiar ring. Sadly, some well meaning Co-op people have, for far too long, indulged in masochistic annual rituals to air their problems in public while, at the same time, falling further behind in the battle for market share. The cemeteries of the north of England in particular are filled with zealous co-operators who went to their graves frustrated that the once so-called "sleeping giant" had not been nationally aroused while most of those around them were moving ahead in the increasingly hi-tech surrounds of UK High Street plc. Once upon a time, local retail societies had the best store sites in our towns but, in many cases, they failed to grab the potential and their efforts were absorbed in the inevitable round of survival seeking society mergers as Tesco and the rest soared forward. Not that the Co-op didn't breed skilled executives. It's surely galling to many across the movement that the CEO of Britain's top multiple is a former Co-op man. Small wonder that older hands yawned and moved on to other things when the headlines heralding support for the latest massive reorganisation hit the streets this week. The TUC's John Monks was only echoing the words of many illustrious co-operators when he said the Co-op risked becoming an anachronistic sideshow unless it upped its game. But could the size of the Birmingham votes mean that, this time around, a national initiative will actually be spawned, giving the Co-op the clout needed for long-term survival in the grocery arena? Indeed, it isn't all bad news.The cannily constructed Co-operative Group (formerly CWS and CRS) is proving a point and there are still some fine retail brains within the movement. But a stronger commercial performance will only be achieved when the whole Co-op sector unites and the debating is translated into action. Meanwhile, its competitors are not exactly standing still. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}