I spent much of last weekend avoiding CAMRA, not intentionally, it just happened that way. Saturday was the date for the West Kent Branch AGM, and also for CAMRA’s National AGM which, this year, took place in Coventry.
I didn’t attend either, although I had planned to go along to my own branch’s bash. However, given the fine weather, combined with a family get-together, I’m afraid CAMRA West Kent went by the wayside, and I am still in the dark as to what occurred, or whether the branch was even able to form a new committee.
There was no shortage of news about the events taking place at Coventry though, as the stories about a “new direction” for the Campaign were all over the national press, with several claiming the end of CAMRA as we know it.
Of course there is nothing journalists like better than a sensationalist story, and the fact there wasn’t anything earth-shattering coming out of Coventry, didn’t stop the headlines homing in on the one Special Resolution which just failed to make the 75% threshold necessary for approval.
The Telegraph led with the story that real ale drinkers had rejected "CAMRA’s bid to support lager", whilst the Independent took a softer approach, with the headline, "CAMRA agrees to campaign for more that just Real Ale". The drink trade’s own mouthpiece, the Morning Advertiser was probably the most hard-hitting with the rather terse statement, "CAMRA will not represent all beer and cider drinkers".
- To secure the long term future of real ale, real cider and real perry by increasing their quality, availability and popularity
- To promote and protect pubs and clubs as social centres as part of the UK’s cultural heritage
- To increase recognition of the benefits of responsible, moderate social drinking
- To play a leading role in the provision of information, education and training to all those with an interest in beer, cider and perry of any type
- To ensure, where possible, that producers and retailers of beer, cider and perry act in the best interests of the customer.
As mentioned above SR 6. To act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers, narrowly failed to attract the necessary mandate of 75% of the votes cast; although it came close at 72.6%.
Other resolutions passed, included the one on offering discounts, which was the subject of the last post, plus a motion changing CAMRA’s policy on “cask breathers” thereby allowing individual branches more choice when it comes to Good Beer Guide selection time. This change of heart is long overdue and is good news to me, as I never understood CAMRA’s opposition to these devices.
I voted in favour of the Special Resolutions, with the exception of the one which enshrined cider and perry in the Campaign’s Articles of Association, but must admit was prepared to see them all fail, especially because of the 75% “super-majority” required - David Cameron, please take note, this is how you reach a meaningful decision! This was due to my perception of CAMRA as an inward-looking organisation, firmly entrenched in the past.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see all but the most controversial of them approved by the voters. It was a good, modernising move on CAMRA’s part, to allow members to vote either on line, or by post, as in the past only those attending the AGM were eligible to make policy decisions.
But whilst 18,000 may look like a good turnout, and is infinitely better that the one thousand or so members who attend AGM’s, it is still less than 10% of the total membership, so apathy still exists amongst the majority of the Campaign’s members. So given this level of indifference amongst CAMRA members, will these changes inspire more of them to get involved, or will it still be the same old, same old?
We won’t know for some time, and CAMRA’s National Executive, now under the leadership of new chairman, Jackie Parker, will have their work cut out for many months to come, as they seek to implement the changes vote through at last weekend’s AGM.
For some well-balanced, alternatives takes on the events in Coventry, and what they may mean for CAMRA, it is well worth taking a look at what fellow bloggers Boak & Bailey (no relation), Pub Curmudgeon and Tandleman have come up with. Beer writer Pete Brown, takes a stronger and more pessimistic view, which is countered well by former GBG and "What's Brewing " editor, Roger Protz’s much more upbeat and optimistic assessment.