Friday, 26 April 2013

A Progressive AGM

The recent CAMRA AGM held in Norwich was rather an interesting one.  It was one where CAMRA to a large extent, took a look at the future and felt itself confident about it.

I'll come to the motions in a moment, but I'll start, not with the Chairman's opening remarks, but with a very accomplished and entertaining review of the year by our Chief Executive, Mike Benner.  Mike, speaking without notes,  advised of a year of success, culminating in the victory in the beer escalator campaign.   The lesson of concentrating efforts in a smaller number of campaigns, as recommended  by the Fit for Purpose Review, was firmly learned and I'm sure that is one that will be repeated.  I'll add at this point, that I'm a big fan of Mike Benner.  We are truly lucky to have him.

We started off well, with a motion, seconded by me, giving the National Executive a kick up the backside for slow progress on the Fit for Purpose Review. (Which I again had a hand in.)  The review really has to form the basis of the future and despite our concerns, there is signs that CAMRA is moving in the right direction.  Main interest then was motions about that most divisive of words "craft".  The first stated that terms such as craft keg, craft beer, craft ale, etc, were meaningless and should not be used in CAMRA publications.  The motion was thankfully defeated.  Next up was a motion calling for CAMRA to run a campaign to educate CAMRA members and the public about the difference between real ale and what it termed "so-called craft".  The case for this wasn't helped by the mover not really explaining it very well and I spoke against it, particularly denigrating the use of the words "so-called craft."  I am glad to say that the AGM supported my view overwhelmingly.

Possibly the most awaited debate on the paper was motion 19 on minimum pricing which I moved.  My main theme was that it wouldn't put a single bum on a pub seat and that it placed us on the side of people such as Alcohol Concern, who were no friends of ours and that having got rid of one beer price escalator, we should not be voting for more government interference in beer pricing.  There was some well put opposition to my view, but supported by powerful speakers such as Steve Bury and John Cryne, I am glad to say that my motion prevailed, with again an overwhelming majority in favour of CAMRA withdrawing its support for minimum pricing.  I noted with interest that the National Executive was evenly split on this, showing, presumably, that it was a finely balanced argument within the Campaign at all levels. My other main intervention was in the discussion of CAMRA's Strategic Five Year Plan, where I succeeded in having "Looking at ways to extend CAMRA's democracy" inserted.  I am glad to say this was fully backed by the National Executive.

Looking elsewhere, I was very impressed by the speech from the new Campaigner of the Year, Dale Ingram (a young woman - we do have some) speaking about  a campaign to encourage communities to list their local pub as community assets. The aim is to get 300 pubs in England listed as Assets of Community Value in 2013. This is something we'll be looking at locally in my branch as it has real potential to save pubs. I was very impressed with Dale too, who only joined CAMRA two years ago. She is fantastically committed to the British pub, which makes her all right by me.  A well deserved winner.

From a personal point of view, it was a good conference for me, as my main concerns all went my way. Far more importantly though was that members, looking into the future, took a responsible and considered view, not only of craft, but in the way CAMRA will face the future.  The Chairman too contributed in saying, as I did and others too, that we are the Campaign FOR Real Ale, not the campaign against other beers.  There was very little nuttiness, a lot of fun and a very upbeat feel and above all, the need to campaign positively was clearly recognised, which can only be good.

So, to sum up:
  •  Fit for Purpose commitment restated
  • Two anti craft motions roundly defeated
  • Support for minimum pricing withdrawn
  • Positive campaigning emphasised
  • Extension of democracy to be looked at
  • Strategic plan adopted
Not bad for a load of out of touch old duffers.

 I also enjoyed the speech and question and answer session by Pubs Minister Brandon Lewis who said that ""Protecting pubs is as important as the tax campaign."  Too right. He joined CAMRA after his speech too! 

May I also add my personal thanks to the Pub Curmudgeon for supplying much needed ammo for me to fire.


Timothy said...

Excellent account, which captures the essence and mood of what was a very good weekend for the Campaign

Pintsandpubs said...

Thanks for the round up. Especially glad to see "an overwhelming majority in favour of CAMRA withdrawing its support for minimum pricing".

Simon Johnson said...


Tyson said...

A good result apart from the defeat of motion 13 which would have reinstated CAMRA's committment to free entry to festivals for its members.

Ed said...

Good work.

Tandleman said...

Tyson: It wasn't really like that. This should never have appeared on the order paper.

Basically it seems that a branch had submitted a budget which would have lost the campaign money. Free admission was part of it, but there was more to it than that.

py0 said...

Well done with the extension of democracy thing. You see I KNEW whining on your blog would do the trick. That saved me the £300 to get to Norwich, lovely.

Tandleman said...


Umm. Maybe. I think though the current democracy worked well as hearing the arguments can't ever be beaten.

Cooking Lager said...

My cap doffed. Well done. I think you have moved your campaign in the direction you have long asserted it to be. For that you deserve the fullest of respect from boozers like me & gratitude from any beard members not present. Tandleman for beard club president, King, PM, anything he wants!

Interesting you all keep having to remind yourselves that you are a campaign FOR and not AGAINST but heh, ho, not everyone in your beard club is as enlightened as yourself. I guess you need to keep the chemical fizz idiots in check.

Whether minimum pricing comes in or not, you guys have put yourselves on the side of the customer, which is where you need to be not just for potential future members but for the general respect and support of the average drinker that appreciates a campaign for a choice of pints in the pub but really never going to appreciate a campaign against a cheap bottle of red.

CAMRA wins in its campaigning when the issue is one of people that care and are for something and the rest are unaffected and have no reason to care. Any issue that results in some customers losing and CAMRA will rightly get opposition and criticism.

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, a number of positive outcomes that will improve CAMRA's image and credibility.

A key lesson to be learned from the duty campaign was that it involved the entire brewing and pub trade speaking with one voice. Campaigns involving promoting one sectional interest at the expense of another are never going to command the same broad support.

Bryan the BeerViking said...

Thanks for the report - very useful, and quite a bit faster and less wordy than the WB one will be. (-:

Being a cynic though, I can't help assuming that Brandon Lewis's subscription will go straight onto his parliamentary expenses...

RedNev said...

Interesting to see that the tone of your report of the AGM and mine are quite similar, although I wrote only about the minimum price and craft keg motions, the most important on the order paper in my opinion.

No mention of us singing Bandiera Rossa in the Fat Cat then?

Tandleman said...

Indeed Nev. I'd forgotten about the singing.

Tandleman said...

PS. The other thing I forgot to mention in my bullet points was that the anti craft NE contender got nowhere.

ABrewHaHa said...

indeed, an enjoyable AGM and the comments about Mike Benner are apt, he is an asset to the campaign. The 'debates' regarding 'craft' were so impressive I had to go to The Norwich Tap House at lunchtime for a London Fields keg beer.

Cooking Lager said...

Just reading Whats Brewing, a beery sheet that increasingly looks like a middle class bunch of house price concerned fleeces campaigning against Tesco. It will be interesting to see how CAMRA deal with the members decision. I suspect the rhetoric about irresponsible supermarkets will remain but how will they express that? Cost are company confidential data so below cost selling bans boil down to duty + VAT or 23p a unit. Ban off licences? A self evident none starter.

Here's hoping they start banging on about how nice pubs and old man beer is instead of moaning about grocery shopping.

Curmudgeon said...

Given that nowadays the vast majority of people (including CAMRA members) split their drinking between pub and home, constantly banging on about the evils of the off-trade is likely to prove a major turn-off.

Phil said...

Campaign FOR Real Ale

I thought CAMARA was the Campaign Against...

Well, that explains a lot.

Stono said...

I thought actually an example of how well the current system works was firstly in motion 3, even though Ken Davie spoke against adopting the motion although there was debate the speakers against were merely confirming the argument for :) Im fairly certain (I was right at the back after all) I spotted his hand go up in favour for the motion when the vote was taken.

Similarly with motion 4 & 5, alot of people applauded the anti craft/keg sentiments a number of people, even if they were increasinly tenuously linked to the motion under debate, were putting forward. But listened intently and were IMO swayed by the more convincing arguments put against by the likes of Roger Protz, Tim Webb and Tandleman, and voted against when the vote was held.

demonstrating actually you can start off holding a particularly view on a motion just by reading it,or even misinterpret it, but then actually reconsider your view after listening to people properly debate it and explain the positon, a very tangible benefit to the process non-attendees would not get.

Id also say the anti craft NE candidate probably lost significant numbers of votes based on the performance over those two motions.again if voting for that was held beyond the AGM, the outcome I think would have been different.

one thing I thought I did pick up though is that actually if you want CAMRA to consider doing something different as an internal change, step 1 isnt go to an AGM and raise a motion, its actually present it to the National Executive first (how they didnt say but presumably its raisable via a local branch), its only if the NE chucks it out, or disagree at that stage that it can be considered for a motion at an AGM.

as there were something like 28 motions put forward, and only the 19 that met the criteria, I think they said 1 or 2 were duplicates, but mostly the rest didnt meet that criteria.

and just for the record it only cost me £16 (the cost of my train ticket I bought on the day not even a super saver advance) to attend, to show it neednt cost you alot, yes I was fortunate enough to be local in this case, but Id certainly recommend anyone considering attending an agm should do so.

Ill certainly be going again local or not :)

arn said...

as a camra member, thank you

Paul Bailey said...

A good all round synopsis, Tandleman and, as several other people have commented, some good, lively debate took place.

I'm glad I attended. Apart from the socialising and pub exploration, both of which were extremely enjoyable, the weekend in general, and the conference in particular, re-confirmed my belief in CAMRA as a positive, campaigning organisation, whose collective membership have a depth of knowledge about the brewing and pub trades that is second to none. This is the second time I have heard Mike Benner speak, and like yourself I was well impressed. Dale Ingram also came across well, so I think the campaign can take heart for the future, following this AGM.

Justin Mason said...

Excellent summing up of a weekend where common sense prevailed and CAMRA re-asserted it's aim to Campaign for cask ale and pubs, which is what it does well. I followed some of the live twitter feeds which I found quite interesting at times. Cheers.

Erlangernick said...

She's only been a member for a couple of years? She might even be newer than me!

Joel said...

That all sounds very good. I especially like the points about positive campaigning, and "Assets of Community Value."

And as always, you've been a great voice of reason.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tandleman
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

My personal key campaigns for the next year are to improve Planning Inspectors' understanding of 'the trouble with pubs'. So often at appeal hearings I have to spend 10 minutes explaining why the case is being heard at all. The clumsy "developers' excuses" so often trotted out which I have to counter are: 'unviable' - no it wasn't, it was just tied or in need of a new business model/management, viz. Antic and their ilk; 'supermarket booze' - if that were the case all pubs would go out of business overnight; 'no interest when offered for sale' yes, because only advertised for £1m in the secondhand prams section of a freesheet and not in the trade press or specialist agents... etc. A presentation to the RTPI conference has been mooted, and a seminar for insectors at the Planning Inspectorate at Bristol.

Working with branches across London to meet CAMRA's target of 300 pub Assets of Community Value within 12 months, and to encourage as many local authorities to adopt pub-friendly planning policies where possible will keep me busy.

I'll also be supporting CAMRA's political lobbyists campaigning for improvements to the planning system to achieve a national blanket protection for pubs to ensure that none are lost to non-pub uses without the community at least having a say through a formal consultation in a planning application.

As pointed out by a fellow Planning Advisory Group member this doesn't mean we will be trying to save pubs which are beyond hope, or where the community clearly wants or needs a supermarket for example instead, only that the current practice of pubcos and breweries of selling popular and successful community pubs without publicity will be stopped. This will also be achieved by registering as many pubs as possible as Assets of Community Value. This process will not stop losses in their tracks but it will ensure that communities have a means of protecting valued pubs.

If anyone is still reading down this far, here's my challenge to you- what are you doing to identify worthy ACV pubs in your area and proposing them to your branch for nomination? Get busy!

Oh, and Tandleman, thanks for the compliment, but there aren't many who describe 50 as 'young'. Perhaps it has something to do with the preservative quality of hops.

Dale L Ingram
London Region Pubs Protection Adviser, PAG & PHG and CotY 2013

Tandleman said...

Now then Dale. You wouldn't want me to correct the "young woman" bit would you? Anyway. To me - you are!

Thanks for the above.