Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What CAMRA is Really Like

There was a flurry of tweets on that there Twitter on Friday about CAMRA's AGM and the "dodgy" motions being submitted to it, plus some scathing remarks about CAMRA's democracy and some odd ideas about how to sort this appalling Stalinist organisation out.

 CAMRA to its active members means something a lot different to those that aren't. It presumably means something different again to those that aren't members at all. In my local branch we have nearly 1400 members and are growing at approximately 30 a month. (Actually more, but we do lose a few, so that's net). We are doing well. We have a complete database of all our pubs, we contact all of our email list once a month with news and views from the branch, and the rest by snail mail twice a year. We invite all members to nominate pubs for the Good Beer Guide by sending them simple forms to fill in and we take these views, expressed postally or by email, firmly into account when we decide what pubs go into the guide. This we do, like all branches as far as I know, by a meeting of members, where we usually get around 50 showing up. .  That's not bad, but we are looking to see how we might make it even easier by polling on line. Despite that, we are lucky to get 60 or 70 replies.   There is no back door to GBG entry in my branch and I doubt if there is in any, though of course, I can't say for sure.  Everything we do is above board and while those who attend on the day get the final vote, the list comes from the postal/email nominations.

There are suggestions we should do more on line as an organisation, consulting members more in that way.  That wouldn't be an issue for me, but I  doubt if it would be much better in terms of replies on line. You see, in any voluntary organisation, the vast majority just like to know what is going on, support the general aims and don't really want other involvement. Voluntary organisations at active level really are a coalition of the willing, the hobbyist, the oddball and those that just like the friendship and the beer.  Ideas like delegates mandated by branches etc. are just not appropriate.  It wouldn't enhance democracy one bit.  We often say getting CAMRA members organised is a bit like herding cats.  You can probably do it, but you'll nearly die in the process and piss all the cats off.

 I mentioned social aspects. The importance of the social gatherings to CAMRA cannot be over emphasised. It is one of the many dabs of glue that hold us together. We visit breweries, we meet at pubs to show support for real ale and just to have a natter with friends. We have plenty of members that support mainly the social side, but why not? Funnily enough, the conversation is rarely about beer in any great detail. It is more about places and people. Beer gets recommended along the lines of  "the Pictish Brewer's Gold (or whatever) is spot on" or whatever. There is little if any clinical analysis and beer geekiness.  Good or shite?  That'll do! Some of us have known each other for years, but we have many who are new and who enjoy it just the same, dropping in and out, just as they do at business meetings, where I make a personal effort, as does our membership secretary) to welcome them, introduce them to others and to encourage them to come again. We don't want to be seen as a clique and try to actively avoid appearing as such.

Ah yes, business meetings. These are where we grimly work out how to implement the never ending edicts from CAMRA HQ. Er no. What edicts? CAMRA is a remarkably de-centralised organisation. Such instructions as we rarely get are usually to comply with company law, best financial practice, insurance and the like. Nobody tells you what to discuss or how to go about it. Nobody is asked to confirm compliance with this or that AGM decision. CAMRA is very devolved and very local. I doubt if the branches would have it any other way, though of course, we don't break the basic principles of the organisation in that we campaign for real ale.

Locally we get around 30 members to a meeting (we constantly encourage attendance) and what we talk about is mostly local pubs, breweries and beer.  It will vary a lot from branch to branch I suppose, but we have a pretty good relationship with all of ours and they like us being involved.  They like to enter competitions and are extraordinarily pleased to win awards. They like us to come and visit them, mention them in our newsletter and hold meetings in their pub and brewery and to call in when we have days out.  It is all a bit of fun for us mostly and that's as it should be.  For them it is publicity and involvement and maybe from their point of views,  just a touch of approval.

 So back to the AGM. There are 19 motions on the agenda paper. Not very many seem nutty. Most discuss internal arrangements such as strategic plans, Fit for Purpose Review, books etc. Unusually - and I've been to a few of these things - there are some controversial motions. Given that beer is going through changing and challenging times, wouldn't you expect that? We will be discussing craft beer. Be odd if we didn't, given the fuss some people make about it. There are some peculiar ideas in some of the motions, but again, given that CAMRA is a collection of individuals, that's hardly surprising. You would surely expect a wide range of views. They'll at least make the bloody thing more interesting!

Where there is a democratic deficit is in consultation - we should try and do more - possibly in the other major part of the campaign, which is the lobbying and consumer part of the organisation.  This is more of the ambit of the National Executive (lay) and full time employees.  Where that goes wrong - like in my view support for minimum pricing - there is the opportunity to overturn it at the AGM, which is what I'll be trying to do.  As an individual member.  Does my branch agree? Don't know, but if any of my members want to speak against me, they are welcome to.

Best I can do I'm afraid, but at least there is a route.  So no Stalinism, no edicts, just people doing something they believe in, in their own way.

I'm aware that this has got a bit rambly, but I hope it gives you a sense from one perspective at least.


Bailey said...

Interesting and, as ever, good to have an insider's perspective.

From where I'm sitting, the issue is this: I'm an introvert; fairly shy; learn best by reading; and express myself best in writing. Meetings, organised 'socials', etc.., are not my idea of fun. So, there's a self-selection process in place in the current system.

Or is there a way for me to engage that takes account of my, er, quirks?

Bailey said...

I should add that I don't hear from my local branch by email or snail mail, after an initial 'welcome to Cornwall', though I suppose I could be a bit more active about contacting them.

Tandleman said...

Bailey - Well you could always go along and just sit and listen, offering to take part in solitary activities like pubs surveys, putting up poster, distributing magazines etc. We have some members that come along and say little if anything.

Your branch should contact you more often, but of course they need the volunteers. Catch 22?

jesusjohn said...

Much to agree with here. Branches vary in their outreach - some are good, some are less so. But all-in-all, they do excellent work. As someone with very little spare time, I am occasionally frustrated by my branch's communication - but I am overall extremely grateful for its publications, news updates, planning application (usually objection) expertise and festival organisation.

And, best of all, I believe that if I had time, at this level I could pitch in and volunteer at this level.

But just as some members like the social aspect or editing the newsletter, etc., as a journalist and policy geek what motivates me about CAMRA as a multimillion pound membership concern is its policy process, on which it lobbies government, and its transparency.

Now it's precisely here that I locate a deficit. I've mooted delegates as a solution - god only knows as a Labour party member I'm aware of the limitations of this suggestion, so I'm not wedded to it.

But could we consider proxies for motion votes? Or e-voting? I find it frustrating you have to apply for a postal ballot for the NE - members should have them by right. If the cost for that is prohibitive, then an e-solution should be sought.

Also, I don't see why the debate has to be heated. I care about CAMRA and want it to succeed. I personally think it needs to look forward a bit more at the top.

But that does not mean the whole entity is fatally flawed.

Nor does it mean that just because I hold a strong dislike of the AGM as currently formulated that a) my view represents kneejerk "CAMRA-bashing"; b) that any of this keeps me up at night.

Nick Boley said...

Very interesting piece, and one whith which I can largely concur. My branch works in broadly similar ways to yours on most issues, although we are smaller (<600 members) we get 20-25 for most meetings and socials. We're always looking to encourage more involvement, more beer scores, more GBG and POTY votes, etc. And we are slowly succeeding. We like to look at good practice from other branches - we do think this could be done more pro-actively at regional level, but that's another story - and see how we can be more effective with a relatively small number of active members. We are not, any of us in the branch, beer geeks. We love good beer in good pubs with good company. We want that to continue and show others how important and enjoyable it is. Again, we are managing to achieve this to some extent.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink, so contact is good, too much annoys them and not enough frustrates them. You can't please all of the people all of the time.
The Norwich AGM will be fun, the craft beer issue debate could get feisty. Me, I have no problem with craft beers (but what the heck is the definition?) on keg, but cask is best and comes first. Some of the craft keg I've tried has been excellent, and the guys who make this stuff are, at the least, fellow-travellers of CAMRA. Those who equate craft keg from a small innovative brewery, which tastes good, with Watneys Red and Double Diamond have, in my view, got it so wrong and could damage the Campaign in the long run by making us look like a bunch of zealots.
If I bump into you in Norwich I will make a point of having a chat, you writings are always sensible, considered and well-crafted.

py0 said...

Do you not think its problematic that in the year 2013, the only way I can express an opinion on a motion in a meaningful way is if I have both the spare time and spare cash for a jolly to Norwich (I have neither)?

What proportion of the membership are actually able to vote at the AGM? 1%? In what kind of world is that an acceptable mandate?

JohnB said...

Wouldn't possibly ask you for an example of 'nutty' motions. The one which struck me as odd was the Books Committee wants approval to remove the 'Overlined glass' symbol from future editions of the and replace it with 'WiFi'. I'd always thought a full pint was aCAMRA campaign objective.

Tandleman said...

JJ - Fair points
Nick - Thanks. I'll look out for you
Py0 - I tried to give some perspective, but either you have disregarded that or concluded it isn't good enough. Would it be that different if it was done in some other way? I doubt it, though I'm all for consulting members much more, using technology to supplement, not replace. Also I have tried to illustrate that the motions are normally so mundane as to be inconsequential other than organisationally. I doubt that they would get much more response.

You also have the issue of what do do about those active members who do all the work being bound by those who take no part other than to press a button.

It isn't that straightforward. You could do with, filling it out for me, sketch a framework or whatever if you have workable ideas. I'm open to them. It just seems like carping without that.

Tandleman said...


This is no longer a prime campaigning objective. I am sure the Book Committee will explain their thinking, but since hardly anyone cares and hardly anyone does it and wifi is now considered a must, I doubt if I'll need much persuasion.

jesusjohn said...

"You also have the issue of what do do about those active members who do all the work being bound by those who take no part other than to press a button."

<< ...and paying their membership subs

Tandleman said...

JJ. Indeed. I agree we should do more, but there is an issue there. Any answers?

It would be interesting to do a parallel exercise and see how it worked out and how many took part.

py0 said...

Just have the option of online voting for the vast majority of members who are unable to attend the AGM. Its really that simple.

If the organisation doesn't want to consider the opinions of the people it recruits as members and enfranchise them to vote on its motions and in its elections, then it should simply not recruit them. You can't have it both ways. Either CAMRA is a small organisation of a few hundred people who are all active and rich enough/have enough free time to travel around the country attending meetings, or its a large democratic organisation with thousands of members all of whom are able to have a say in the policies the organisation pursues.

All well run democratic organisations have a constitutional quorum requirement for an AGM to be considered legitimate. Why does CAMRA not feel the need to bother with this policy?

Tandleman said...

py0: It isn't that simple. Sorry. We must agree to differ.

As for a quorum requirement? I am sure there is. I don't know what it is though.

jesusjohn said...

E-voting would address my concerns too. I think the benefits outweigh the downside of not being able to amend motions.

Tandleman said...

JJ. It might make you happy, but would it address the perceived democratic deficit?

jesusjohn said...

I don't mind if people don't participate if they can - that's their look-out. I mind that there appears to be a constituency that wants a say who are unwilling or unable to spend a weekend away to do it. The NE spends my money - I'm allowed a say in person. Don't see why e-voting is much different from someone who doesn't speak in a debate but still votes. Branches could hold meetings to discuss the motions so members are aware. Those without computers need to be thought of, of course. But not an insurmountable concern.

Tandleman said...

Not disagreeing really, but I see a few issues. At least with motions and an AGM you get a chance to understand and challenge the argument.

Is it a problem of democracy, process or outcome?

Cooking Lager said...

Something you hint at but don’t go into detail of is an issue which by its definition there is no answer. Those that are active enough to engage with and vote are a self-selecting group which is not representative of either the membership or any sort of wider society. A regular fella with a job, wife, 2 kids, and list of DIY tasks that need doing over the bank holiday probably has enough going on and little interest in getting involved in taking 3 buses across town on a cold rainy night to vote for which dumpy dive gets a pub award. He may like a pint of bitter, want to be a member of something that supports that sort of thing but is not going to go to Norwich to vote against you lot wanting to put up the price of the bottle of wine he also likes. The single, childless, beer obsessive that kind of lives and breathes it and actually thinks someone that drinks a glass of wine or lager to be the devils spawn is ready and willing to punt up. So you end up with a self-selecting group of people who reinforce each other’s prejudices. When scrutinised you have accurate parodies like Viz’s real ale twats. The result is all the barmy stuff that may or may not get passed depending on whether the likes of you can ensure sanity prevails.

I say that and I love the beard club and recommend anyone joins it, it’s ace and a right good jolly old piss up where from time to time on brewery tours and stuff you can get proper rat arsed for nowt if you play your cards right.

Cooking Lager said...

P.S. Postal voting in national elections has made it more convenient for the engaged to vote but not encouraged the disengaged to vote. E voting would have the same result. If only 60% of people are interested in choosing the government, and 30% interested in choosing the local council, you can expect the beard club postal vote to be met by apathy.

Tandleman said...

Agreed on both counts Cookie.

Pastey said...

As much as I want to agree with most things here, I do feel that it leaves a few things out that I've experienced as an active member, which has made me less and less active over the years.

The first thing is that while you say that CAMRA is decentralised, it's also tiered. There's the branch, the region, the super-region and the national levels. A branch may well decide to do something one way, ignoring the regional idea, which in turn ignores the national.

An example of this that I can think of was how voting and judging for the Good Beer Guide is done between different branches that I've been a member of in the past. I shan't name branches, but one insisted that there was at least one submitted beer scoring card for the pub for each month of the year, scoring over average before the pub was even considered. Another branch insisted that during the voting only those members that had attended that pub could vote for it. Both seem like good ideas at first glance, but both meant that some pubs were left out simply because they didn't get as many members going to them. Some of the more bizarre rules I've seen is one branch where the voting is only done by those on the branch committee, and another where those pubs who were in the previous year were automatically selected and had to be voted out.

I know that parts of CAMRA as a whole are trying to standardise some elements of this, and I welcome that. Things like the Good Beer Guide are one of the main publicity tools for CAMRA, and having pubs in it that really shouldn't be is something that lets it down. Perhaps the decentralised nature of CAMRA hurts it at times? When a few individuals are able to make the choices and run things in their own way, it doesn't do the overall campaign any good at all.

As for the AGM, yes most of the motions seem ridiculously mundane, but they do all affect the way in which CAMRA runs and it can't be denied that so few of the membership are actually able to vote on these, and these may not always be the best educated voters. The example that always comes to mind for me on this was the vote on whether or not CAMRA's definition of Real Cider should allow any fruit in it at all. I very much doubt that the majority of those voting actually ever drink cider. What this has meant though is that no CAMRA beer festival can stock and sell any of the fruit ciders, which are very popular, even though they can sell fruit beers.

I also don't know if the outcome of the vote would have been any different if it had been opened up to some form of electronic voting. The easier it's made to get involved though, the more people are likely to get involved, so it's got to be worth a try. There are some of us that are engaged but don't have the time and money to attend AGMs.

Tandleman said...

I have heard that some branches have arcane systems for the GBG, but can only say mine hasn't. It isn't perfect, but it is open and can't easily be manipulated. But we don't use the NBSS as that can be too easily manipulated or ignored as you have indicated.

Pubs though will always lose out if members don't go to them. How else do we get to know what they are like? We try and find out which pubs are on the up and ask members to go and give them the once over long before GBG selection. Tricky one though.

Specific gripes though wouldn't necessarily be addressed by another voting system. You'd likely just get a different set of gripes. Or the same ones arrived at by different means.

Pastey said...

Any voting system will get gripes, there's no doubt about that. But I think though that for some things that are national, then the policy and systems in place might be better done nationally? If all branches had to select the pubs for the GBG in the same way then surely that would make it a better, more reliable publication? Same for how pubs are chosen for the pub of the year awards, although this one is getting a lot better I believe?

I think that this is one of the things that maybe the decentralised nature of CAMRA might be affecting itself badly with.

Phil said...

Most of the motions struck me as perfectly reasonable, irrespective of which way I'd vote if I were there. Some were frustratingly terse. I wondered why the "open fire" symbol was slated for removal - I guess there aren't very many of them out there, but I'd have thought that made the few remaining even more worth marking out. Or is it a carbon footprint thing?

I don't have a problem with policy being made by the people who turn up, for two reasons. One is that I don't think opening up the voting to the Interweb would actually make all that much difference - as Tand says in the OP, you can get nearly as many people turning up to the GBG online-vote-counting meeting as there were online votes! In my experience (of union branches, campaign groups, voluntary organisations etc) the number of people who actually want to participate but are put off by practical obstacles is generally very small. The other is that I genuinely don't think the organisation's broken - the people who do bother to turn up seem to be doing an OK job. As I said above, the motions being discussed look pretty sensible & not at all green-ink-ish. If there were three pages of motions on rival definitions of "black IPA" or the correct spelling of "draught", then I'd be worried.

Tyson said...


You are, of course, right. National things should be decided nationally and I think most non-CAMRA members assume it is. However, CAMRA has traditionally been very reluctant to impose any hegemony on branches in matters such as the GBG. And there lies the trouble.

py0 said...

So what you're saying Phil, is that out of the sample of people you took by asking those who turned up to CAMRA events in person, you didn't see any evidence that they weren't willing to turn up to CAMRA events in person?

I genuinely worry for this country at times.

Rob Nicholson said...

The motions about detailed flags in the GBG are a prime example of an issue that does NOT need to go the AGM. It should have just been changed. It's also still too much in the paper world whereas the online guides are not restricted. I think it's a shame to loose real fire because of a space issue.

Rob Nicholson said...

Could somebody also tell me the real purpose of the regional meetings? They seem a very ineffective way to transfer information and are a solution from before the world of email et al. The alignment is wrong as well as we don't have chance in Macc to talk to our immediate neighbours in Manchester, Potteries or Derbyshire.

Cooking Lager said...

As for the balance between local autonomy versus national dictat. It sounds appealing to set things at a national level that might prevent the activists at the grassroots from embarrassing the overall organisation. It is what all the national main political parties do. However it turns joining those parties into little more than being a cheerleader for the decisions of others. One result is membership falling off a cliff and the slow death of big 3 parties (that is why they want state funding, because no one wants to join them like they used too). The local autonomy is one of the appeals of the minor parties. Beardies may not like something printed in a regional beer publication and consider it damaging and/or ignorant. By preventing it, you prevent someone who will be active in numerous other ways and possibly lose that.

RedNev said...

For those who want some kind of e-voting, I don't see your motions on the order paper. Carping here about the so-called democratic deficit in CAMRA while doing nothing about it seems pointless to me.

Having in the past been actively involved in a political party and a trade union, I can confidently assert that CAMRA is more democratic then any of the three main parties, but less than a trade union. So, could be better, could be worse.

py0 said...

How exactly are the people who are unable to attend the AGM supposed to be able to propose and vote for their motion if by their very definition they're unable to be there?

Its like one of those internet company helpdesks that say "if your internet is down please report the fault on our website" and then report a zero fault rate because no-one filled in the form.

Phil said...

So what you're saying Phil, is that out of the sample of people you took by asking those who turned up to CAMRA events in person, you didn't see any evidence that they weren't willing to turn up to CAMRA events in person?

That's not 'what I'm saying'. What I actually said was "In my experience (of union branches, campaign groups, voluntary organisations etc) the number of people who actually want to participate but are put off by practical obstacles is generally very small." I didn't say "in my experience of CAMRA" as I've got no experience of CAMRA except as a member, and not very much of that. I have got a lot of experience of various other forms of voluntary organisation, which includes a lot of soul-searching about all the non-active members who might be deterred by practical obstacles to turning up. Remove those practical obstacles and (in my experience) very few additional people actually do turn up.

Any clearer?

py0 said...

Clearer, but it still sounds like circular logic to me. Whatever the organisation, you're still asking the people who turned up why the people who didn't turn up didn't turn up as if its a given that they would know the answer. If very few additional people turned up, maybe you didn't remove the right obstacles? You're still shouting "Can anyone not hear me?" and taking silence as a no.

The case of CAMRA couldn't be more different. There are lots of people around the forums who would like to be able to express an opinion and vote on the motions who will be unable to attend the AGM and don't understand how in 2013 its not possible to vote for motions online. We know there's a problem, and we know how to fix it, unfortunately the will isn't there to do so by those with the means to enable it.

Phil said...

Whatever the organisation, you're still asking the people who turned up why the people who didn't turn up didn't turn up

No, we were looking at practical factors which would predictably stop people turning up - really obvious, no-brainer factors like always holding meetings of a national organisation in the same town, or always holding meetings in working hours/on Saturday mornings/on school nights, or having a two-week deadline for postal votes when it took a week to circulate the ballots. Very often these were things that people had complained about, too. We looked at those practical factors, we changed them and... not very much happened. The complaints stopped, a couple of people started participating more (not necessarily as many people as had been complaining), and a couple of people who quite liked the old arrangements started participating less.

This is a conservative argument (small c if you please), but it's not conservatism for its own sake. If CAMRA was in decline - if there weren't any motions to the AGM because nobody cared any more, or if the only people submitting motions were pedants and green-ink obsessives - I'd agree that it needed shaking up, and this would be one obvious way to start shaking. But it's not in decline; it seems to be doing OK.

Tandleman said...

py0: You know if you actually cared about this as a member, you'd email a motion about it, get yourself along on a cheap day return and convince people of the rightness of your case.

You say you want change, you know how to change it and you don't need a whole weekend. Just turn up for your motion (there is a timetable), do a little light convincing and having won your case, go back home.

It wouldn't cost a fortune. Unless you prefer grumbling how unfair it all is, which I suspect you'd rather.

Rob Nicholson said...

I assume the irony of your suggestion (py0 attending a meeting to promote online voting) is intentional? IMO it's complete madness to try and distil such a ground breaking change in CAMRA into a 15 minute motion. Heck, we can't even get the darn thing recorded for broadcast!

py0 said...

Its CAMRA logic in action.

"Lots of members can't come to the AGM"

"Well if they come to the AGM and tell us why not we will do something about it"

Any sitcom writers out there looking for a new topic? Other episodes include CAMRA paying for research into cask breathers, finding that they don't make any difference, and then banning them anyway.

Tandleman said...

Ah. You got us there. Bang to rights.

I get the feeling you are the blog equivalent of a vexatious litigant.

coxy said...

This kind of sums up how bloody tedious camra can be, I want girl on girl not beard on beard.

Phil said...

"Lots of members can't come to the AGM"

Really? There are things that actually prevent people attending an AGM (holding it in Antarctica, running it over six weeks, charging £10,000 admission etc), and there are things that discourage people from attending. I don't think many people are being prevented from attending at the moment. If someone's able to go along but certain things are discouraging them, I think it's quite reasonable to ask them to make the effort to go along and talk about those things. They may even change some people's minds.

Curmudgeon said...

There's a lot I can identify with there at a local level. The activities of local branches are pretty much entirely a force for good.

The problem lies in the disconnect between that and policy-making at the national level, whether via AGM motions or the National Executive and paid officials deciding on things on the hoof without any consultation.

I was actually just discussing this at our branch AGM last night, and the conclusion was that there are some issues where it would be best for CAMRA simply to remain silent rather than feel forced to formualate a policy.

Cooking Lager said...

I think the lad, Mudge, makes a fair point. In any locality you cannot argue with what CAMRA are up to whether drinking pongy old mans beer in dumpy pubs is your cup of tea or not. What they do is either of benefit to some and/or of no harm to others.

At national level they campaign for changes to government policy and as a political campaign that is bound to divide opinion with clear winners and losers coming from a change of government policy.

Paul Bailey said...

A good post Tandleman, and some equally good debate. Basically what it boils down to, is that whilst CAMRA is far from perfect it does do certain things really well, particularly at local level.

I'm tempted to say "If it ain't boke, don't fix it", and certainly leave individual branches to carry on in their own way, rather than try imposing edicts from the top.

As for the thorny issue of voting on AGM motions; well I've rarely seen a motion I care that strongly about, one way or the other. I will be coming to Norwich next weekend, and will look out for you, TM but, your motion aside, there's not much on the order paper to get me hot under the collar. I'm more interested in the socialising and exploring the local pubs, which goes on at these events, and am looking forward to sampling what Norwich has to offer.

Rob Nicholson said...

>rather than try imposing edicts
from the top

But they already do that although because we're not employees, we can decide to ignore them. The worst they can do is shut down the branch. Somethings should be at least discussed nationally (like consistent GBG selection best practise) and therefore it just makes sense to me to try and consult more. It's the lack of consultation where most things go off the CAMRA rails.

>I'm more interested in the socialising and exploring

I suspect this is uppermost in the vast majority of attendees and for that it's fine. Which is why I think there is some mileage in splitting the business side from the social side. Let's have a great member's weekend with some good workshops - these can be held anywhere in the country. But the business side is held in the transport triangle so it's easy to get to whilst at the same time ramping up on-going consultation and debate using that new kid on the block: the internet.

Stono said...

as much as I like to joke that the nearest motorway to Norwich is the Amsterdam ring road (its not btw) Norwich isnt in some far flung impossible to get to corner of the country and is perfectly accessible by public transport, it even has an airport if you wanted to fly up there, anyone who was minded to go has had over a year to arrange their attendance so I dont see the issue personally as its easy to moan about stuff on the internet, but if your that passionate about something you actually get up and go do something about it.

and Id actually say the fact AGMS arent stuck in some odd transport triangle (AKA M25 corridor) is one of its benefits,as it means members who cant get to Scarborough, or the Isle of Man one year, might get to go one thats nearer them the next and this gives you a more spread grouping of members each year.

Ill be going to the AGM, just for a day visit, oddly enough not for the social stuff/visits/pubs because I get to do that whenever I choose round Norwich anyway. Im going to see how CAMRA do business, rather than just be the keyboard warrior type bemoaning that no-one ever takes account of my views.

RedNev said...

If you really want to be involved in something, you will get involved. If you expect things to change to suit your own personal requirements just because you've had a whinge on Tandleman's blog, then you are going to end up disappointed. I have been actively involved in a number of different organisations over the years, and involvement requires some personal sacrifice and quite a lot of effort. The same complaints, never acted upon, become quite boring after a while.

Rob Nicholson said...

>If you really want to be involved in something, you will get involved

Sorry, that's just arrogant statement. It's costing me £262 in travel and accommodation alone to get to Norwich plus drinking and eating will push that to nearly £400. I can afford it. For many, that's a lot of money.

So on cost alone, CAMRA is preventing some members from taking a more active role in the debate.

RedNev said...

No, it's not arrogant; I was quoting from my own experience. I am, for the record, not in work myself.

If you get involved in CAMRA locally, you can then persuade your branch to put forward your pet proposals to the AGM as a branch motion. Your branch will then present your case. If you can't persuade your own branch, then perhaps your idea isn't so good after all. It's not ideal, but it's a way forward. In my years as a union rep, I often presented motions to our conference that someone else had drafted.

As I said previously, if you really want to get involved, you will. Not arrogance - experience. But people who prefer to complain without actually doing anything about it will see the obstacles rather than the solutions.

Rob Nicholson said...

I think we're starting to confuse two different issues here: the desire to effect change and the wish to be involved more directly in the debate & decision making process for national policy. For the former, yes I agree that you have to get physically involved although even that is an old-fashioned point of view in today's viral world.

It's the later group of ~6,000 active members where the wish to be more involved comes from. I agree that the majority of CAMRA members have no interest in getting involved and never will. Only 10% of the even the active membership vote on the motions (the rest are out drinking in Norwich). For the rest, CAMRA is in the important but not vital camp - it could close down tomorrow and the world of drink will carry on as it has done for thousands of years.

So the question here is whether those active members should have a way of being more closely involved in debate. I think the answer is yes but it's niave to ever believe that you will get them to attend physical meetings so what we've got here is a current process that's not fit for entirely purpose and a possible solution that will have to be voted on by the people who don't perceive a problem as they're sat in a physical meeting. Rock and hard place.

It is quite poignant to be talking about problems with trade union-eque practises (although I've been told CAMRA isn't really a trade union) with the death of Thatcher who defeated the unions. I've grown-up in a world where trade unions have never encroached (IT) so this has moulded my POV and style whereby I much prefer to empower a small team (or even one person) to make decisions after consulting. I'd much prefer CAMRA to run that way. The NE and central committees make decisions for us, after consulting and listening to the active membership and we keep the AGM as a way of correcting bad decisions although I'd still prefer it to not have to get that far.

To effect a change like that is unlikely to ever happen IMO.

Cooking Lager said...

The trade union comparison is relevant I think. Formed in the 70’s as a consumer union there are clear parallels to the trade union movement. The average worker may see a benefit in trade union membership but not be interested in its workings. The politically active socialist wanting to bring the government down may see the movement as something to get involved in. The decline of the unions was when they ceased to reflect the views of their members. Often forgotten is around a half of trade union members in the 80’s voted for Maggie because they agreed with reforms like an end to closed shops & secret ballots for members and no strikes unless balloted. If CAMRA is to be run by a small band of beer warriors fighting the fight against keg bitter & lager and seeking price increases for those that drink that muck I doubt the organisation is reflective of its members, most of which are inert until the price of a bottle of wine goes up then they’ll be pissed off enough to quit.