Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Curious Incident of the Dog That Barked Rather a Lot

There has been quite a lot written about the CAMRA AGM and the members failure to vote by the required 75% in favour, of Special Resolution 6. (SR6).  (The 75%, for the avoidance of doubt is set as part of UK Company Law.)

This resolution, along with its fellows was  a part of the Revitalisation Project and as a whole were intended to modernise the Campaign going forward.  This failure, despite the fact that all other resolutions were passed, has been greeted with a great deal of hysteria by many who should know better. Roger Protz on the other hand, has summed it all up rather well and I recommend that you read what he says before reading the rest of my tuppence worth.

As someone who was actually there when the result was announced in Coventry - and is a CAMRA activist and, I like to think, a moderniser - I voted in favour of all the resolutions. So what was the reaction at the AGM when this was announced?  Well actually very little. All of us who were modernisers had actually feared a much worse result and were rather upbeat we had come so far. These feelings were further enhanced by the Conference which sets policy, passing a number of very progressive motions, including acceptance of cask breathers and lifting the ban on keg beers at our festivals and much more.

So does SR6 matter? Well, it was a kind of catch all that frankly could have been more cleverly worded. It intended, I think, to show that CAMRA accepts that its remit should be formally widened:

To approve the insertion of the following Article 2(e)
in CAMRA’s Articles of Association: “2(e) to act as the
voice and represent the interests of all pub-goers and
beer, cider and perry drinkers;”

De facto of course, that is already the case and the acceptance of other resolutions and motions, while not exactly making SR6 moot, means that the intention of SR6 is more or less covered elsewhere. I would add that those that fondly imagine that the passing of SR6 would result in some kind of sudden support for say, including keg beers in the GBG for example, are likely to have been pretty well disappointed.Even if it had been passed, it would have taken a while for its implications to have worked through the system and there would have been no certainty about how that would have played out.

The hysteria I mentioned elsewhere cannot go without comment.   Pete Brown set out his stall and frankly if I was making a case to reject SR6 due to the parlous state of cask ale - the main raison d'être - then I could have taken almost all of what he said as a bloody good reason to stick to our knitting.  In parts it could be used more like a speech for the status quo. Take this for example:

"What I find most alarming is that no one in the cask ale industry wants to ‘fess up that there’s a serious issue here. This is a recipe for disaster, like the middle-aged man who won’t go and get that pain checked out at any the doctor because he’s scared of what he might hear, and anyway it might just go away. Last year. when I wrote about the quality issues around cask in London, I was comprehensively attacked from all corners of the industry, in a number of different publications.  Now, the plight of cask is actively being covered up"

For those that think the campaign for real ale has been won and that this failure is a card ripping up matter, (and I include my good friend Beers Manchester here,) just look at what Pete has to say and I agree with him in spades about it. We can never be complacent about cask conditioned beer. With a live product, the battle will never be won. It just goes on with high points and low points. Are we at a high? Not at all. More choice has not brought better quality at point of dispense. There is much more still to do and maybe that is why some people had doubts.  There is also a cadre that believe that we should not be supporting cider and perry as well as a few diehards, so maybe the result is a lot better than could reasonably have been expected. Please remember 72.6% of the 18,000 were in favour.

I also recommend that you look at Boak and Bailey. They have summed a lot of this up although I don't like the title which suggests the way forward will now be difficult. The door is certainly, while not fully open, pretty much ajar. Progress can now be made without SR6 and there is always next year.

Finally there are those that worry about the election of one traditionalist member to the Executive Committee. All I can say is until I read her manifesto, I'd never heard of her and in any case, is one traditionalist so bad to have as an opposing voice? You need different opinions on a committee, even when they are a minority of one.

This was a very progressive AGM and Conference. The Campaign has moved towards the future. Those on either side that tear up membership cards must of course suit themselves, but really could do with sitting down and looking at the evidence before doing so.

I'll finish with a quote by Martyn Cornell on Twitter.  

The call for change failed by about 900 votes. About 2,000 Camra members die every year.

Not a nice thought, but likely true enough. The Campaign will change further. One way or another.

I thought Coventry and the AGM venue were both places I would go a long way to avoid in the future.



Curmudgeon said...

What an utterly obnoxious and offensive comment from Martyn Cornell. He's not exactly a spring chicken, either.

And, as I've said in the past (rather more politely):

"It’s sometimes argued that this is basically a generational divide that will be eroded by the passage of time, but that’s akin to the common fallacy that conservative political values will fade away as older people die off. In practice, it doesn’t happen, as each generation rediscovers them anew."

Matt said...

Aaagh, my least favourite piece of management speak: "going forward".

Tandleman said...

Maybe a bit blunter Mudgie but just what you said.

Matt: You need some blue sky thinking here. Helicopter out a bit and see the bigger picture.

Curmudgeon said...

We're all singing from the same hymnsheet that we need to be pushing the envelope a bit here and going for the low-hanging fruit.

Steven Holt said...

I voted against SR 6 & I'm very glad to see that it failed.I noted that Janet Atack came out top in the vote for committee members, her election address was spot on. What is the point of embracing all drinkers, most of whom don't give a monkeys for Camra or it's aims.

In the election brochure it said that we would campaign for quality beer, who is to decide what quality is. Our groups name is Campaign For Real Ale, not any old keg fizz smoothflow craft stuff. If that resolution had passed I would have resigned my membership.

retiredmartin said...

A pleasing dose of common sense, Peter.

NB Agree about the University venue, but Coventry deserves a second chance, albeit more for the Cathedral and museums than pubs. Town Wall Tavern serves good Bass.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

This thing about older people dying off so the next vote will inevitably go the right way is eerily redolent of what was said by some of the more excitable Remain losers in the EU referendum.
But thank you Tand for a clear-headed explanation of the vote and what it means.
Personally I think it's good to see that in all other aspects of the voting CAMRA seems to be moving with the times.
What should be more worrying is how few of the 200,000 members bothered to vote.
And I thought it was only the young would did that sort of thing ...

qq said...

I'd view offence as like libel - it can't apply to the truth. The truth may hurt, the truth may be uncomfortable, but if you find it offensive then the problem lies with you rather than the thing you're being offended by.

Actually I suspect it's an underestimate, 2000/year would represent just over 1% of CAMRA membership. Which might be true if it was evenly split in every age between 18 and 118, but anecdotally it seems weighted to those in the 50-70 range and not always in the best of health.

I'm not sure the analogy with conservative politics holds up either - there's plenty of past beer "certainties" that have passed with the generations. No doubt someone in 1900 was saying that drinking porter was as enduring as the British Empire, and in 1950 someone thought that mild would last as long as segregation in the US - these things change, and you can't just rely on the status quo continuing. CAMRA itself has recognised that - it's not the Campaign for Cask Ale, the definition of "real ale" has been changed over the years to accomodate bottles, cans and keykegs.

The point of embracing all drinkers is that is how to expand demand for real ale. You don't do that by telling people that the drinks that they like are shite, it just gets their backs up and switches them off to anything you tell them.

Stono said...

someone made a similar remark to Martyn Cornells on Boak and Baileys blog about the AGM votes, and Ive seen it crop up more than once in the twittersphere as a sentiment.

Im more disappointed, and a touch disturbed by it frankly, rather than offended.

does anyone genuinely believe the right way to express disappointment that a vote on lets face it, is about as trivial a matter as what type of beer you like drinking and whether an organsiation you belong to campaigns for people who like other beer to drink in the pub as well, that those who voted against SR6 are as one lofty self opinionated writer I saw claimed meant you were "...on the wrong side of the debate" and that somehow old father time would catch up with them quickly, and sort out the dissenting voices.

because I struggle to get my head round that. SR6 should have been reworded, albeit you cant do that at AGMs once theyve been presented, but as Tandleman quite rightly highlights, and as Ive always felt at AGMs especially that alot of people who dont attend might miss, there are alot of sensible modernisers in CAMRA and an acceptance from alot of members of the need for that, all the other SRs passed, as did all the modernising motions if you could label them that, and the NE now has an increased diversity of representation.

I do really not understand why it has caused so much angst in some quarters.

and I did give the AGM a miss this year, because I expected Coventry would be as exciting a place to visit as it sounded.

Phil said...

I drink keg beer fairly regularly - there's some terrific beer out there on keg. Anyone who maintains that cask beer is, always and everywhere, the Pinnacle of the Brewer's Art is sadly mistaken.

I still voted against SR6, for two reasons. Firstly, because I don't mind the fact that not all good beer is real ale - and I don't mind if CAMRA is a campaign for some, but not all, good beer. Secondly, even if we were going to turn CAMRA into a Campaign for Good Beer, the revised version of the clause would have us representing *all* beer drinkers: throwing out the 'cask' criterion is one thing, but the new clause would have thrown out any distinction between good and bad beer. We're not a Campaign For Beer In General.

Or, you know, dinosaurs, chemical fizz and so forth. But there might actually be rational arguments against SR6 as well as in favour.

Curmudgeon said...

SR6 suffered from its purpose being unclear. Nick Boley has insisted that it was intended to be about CAMRA representing the interests of all pubgoers, but it was widely interpreted as sanctioning support for non-real beers. Of course, in practice CAMRA has always supported all beer drinkers through campaigning for lower duty (the benefits of which mostly accrue to lager drinkers and the off-trade) and all pubgoers through such policies as supporting reform of planning and business rates.

It's also hard to see exactly what CAMRA could have done if SR6 had been passed, but is unable to do now.

Curmudgeon said...

@Stono - however you describe it, it's still pretty unpleasant to be eagerly anticipating the death of your opponents. And, as I said, it's a fallacy to assume that shifts in public opinion work that way.

Tandleman said...

"It's also hard to see exactly what CAMRA could have done if SR6 had been passed, but is unable to do now."

My point exactly Mudgie. If only someone who thinks otherwise would put me right.

Cooking Lager said...

@mudge I think he's that nasty cock that's a bell end to anyone that gets the history of IPA wrong too. It's a matter of character.

IrishseaDave said...

Agree entirely on the hysteria remarks, and being in the hall can confirm your comments. No hysteria from those there at all.What did surprise me was just how out of date a view of CAMRA & CAMRA people was expressed on social media by those in hysteria mode,& also how upset they appeared. I am starting to think CAMRA s biggest problem is not it's position, but the fact that some people think it's ten years (or should that be fifteen!)behind where it is actually at.

Alex W said...

"Roger Protz on the other hand, has summed it all up rather well and I recommend that you read what he says before reading the rest of my tuppence worth"

Protz's initial tweet did fuel the hysteria though and I heard led to the press office at the AGM to get on the phone to him.