Nearly every time papers mention the crisis facing the Co-op, it’s said the movement started in Rochdale back in the19th century.

In fact the real pioneers were about 250 miles away in Brighton where poverty was every bit as bad as in the north.

Led by Dr William King, they had the idea of people co-operating with each other in order to help themselves. Other notable organisers such as George Holyoake expanded the idea until the Co-op became a real power in Brighton.

For most of the last century, there were two notable Co-op landmarks in Brighton and Hove.

One was the imposing shop in London Road, Brighton, which opened in 1931 and staggered on somehow until 2007.

Once extensions had been added, it was the largest department store in Brighton, even bigger than Hanningtons in North Street.

In its latter years, it typified all that was wrong with the Co-op – an out-of-date building with too many staff, poor stock and all the allure of a shop in Soviet Russia.

The other landmark was a gaunt and forbidding edifice on the corner of Olive Road and Portland Road in Hove. This housed an enormous laundry and bakery while, hidden in it somewhere, was a desperately unappealing shop.

For many people in Brighton, the Co-op was an important part of their lives. Every shopper was a potential member of the movement and, once in, you received a dividend on your purchases. Many older Brightonians can still recall their membership number, which had to be recited at the till.

The Co-op also ran many social and sporting events in the town. It owned a lot of property, some of it extremely valuable, such as half the houses in Hanover Crescent.

Politically it was also important. Its full-time organiser for many years was Don Ranger, who was also a Labour and Co-op councillor.

Several other councillors were supported by the Co-op and when David Lepper became the first non-Tory MP for Brighton Pavilion in 1997, he always described himself as Labour and Co-op.

Members had the chance to vote in various people to positions of responsibility in the Co-op locally and nationally, although turnout was often low.

It was this system that allowed The Rev Paul Flowers to become chairman of the Co-op bank, even though he appeared to know little about banking.

Len Wardle, the Worthing-based group chairman at the Co-op, had to resign last week for being one of those who appointed him.

Until recently the separate societies making up the Co-op nationally had a fair amount of autonomy and for a while Brighton was one which made progress.

It specialised in opening stores in areas neglected by the grocery chains and started a superstore in Peacehaven as far back as 1978. The first one in Hove was at Nevill Road from 1986.

But pitched against the most ruthless business operators in Britain such as Tesco, and Asda, the Co-op wilted.

It’s a sign of the times that the Nevill Road site is soon to be taken over by Waitrose – the supermarket arm of the John Lewis partnership which seems to do little wrong these days.

John Lewis is run on slightly similar lines to the Co-op, but gives staff less room for manoeuvre because it is in such a competitive business.

The Co-op still had many loyal shoppers who liked its ethical stance on fair trade and environmental issues.

It gained a good reputation for some products, notably wine.

But pitched against Tesco and Asda, it stood as much chance of victory as I would in a tennis match against Rafa Nadal. It was no contest.

The Co-op bank, once small, also profited from its ethical stance.

In the 1980s it gained the important account of Brighton Council from Barclays because councillors disapproved of that bank’s dealings with South Africa when it was still operating apartheid.

But the bank seriously overreached itself through naivety and nonsense. It may survive, but it will never be the same again.

There will be many people like me, not card-carrying Socialists, who feel sad at the battering the Co-op is receiving.

But to prosper again, it needs reform of staff and structure to an extent that may be impossible to achieve.

The resignations of one maverick minister and a well-meaning group chairman will not be nearly enough.