Monday, 23 April 2018

Two cheers for Revitalisation

As I’m sure all my readers are aware, last Saturday saw the announcement of the results of the voting on the great issue of our times – CAMRA Revitalisation. While I hadn’t got to the stage of writing anything in advance, obviously I had given some thought as to what I would say in the event of the vote going one way or the other. However, in typically British style, what happened was not a decisive decision but a somewhat equivocal outcome. In a sense, I was being prescient back in September when I wrote “No doubt in the end some kind of uneasy compromise will be arranged.”

As the results show, all but one of the Special Resolutions were passed with the required 75% majority. The one exception was SR6 ‘To approve the insertion of the following Article 2(e) in CAMRAʼs Articles of Association: “2(e) to act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub- goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers;”’ which only secured 72.6% approval. The resolution was widely seen as putting into practice the aspiration expressed in the Revitalisation report to extend some measure of support to “quality” non-real beers and ciders.

In fact, the democratic credentials of the whole exercise were very suspect, as no opportunity was given to circulate to the membership any case against the Special Resolutions. Given this, it’s impressive that there was sufficient grass-roots discontent to reject even one of them. The whole thing was reminiscent of a Soviet Bloc election and leaves a distinctly sour taste in the mouth.

Contrast this with the National Executive elections, where Lynn Atack, the only candidate to set out an unequivocal stall against the entire thrust of the Revitalisation agenda, topped the poll with 8,491 votes. The total number of voters in this election hasn’t been stated, but it’s clear that Lynn received a substantially higher percentage of votes than those which opposed SR6. Maybe it is better to treat the electorate as adults and give them a for-or-against case rather than just implying they’re rubber-stamping something.

Taking the results as a whole, nine out of ten Revitalisation resolutions were passed, as were ordinary Conference motions to adopt an officially neutral stance on the cask breather, and to allow the selling of non-real British beers at beer festivals. I can’t really see the point of the last one, as it comes across as rather like allowing cats at a dog show. So the results have to be seen as a mixed bag rather than a decisive victory for either “side”. But this hasn’t stopped a hysterical toys-out-of-pram reaction in some quarters:

As I said in the post I referenced above, there remains an underlying tension in CAMRA between those who see it as essentially being about the preservation of a distinctive British tradition, and those who want it to wholeheartedly embrace the world of modern beer innovation. This decision has papered over the cracks and kicked the can down the road for another year, but the fundamental dichotomy has not gone away. Although there’s no doubt which camp I align with, it’s not a question of right and wrong, but a different way of looking at things, and the two outlooks remain uneasy bedfellows within the same organisation.

48 comments:

  1. All rather curious as I would have thought CAMRA needed craft more than craft needed CAMRA. In the event the craft brigade comments seem to suggest the opposite! As you rightly surmise, this will rumble on 🙁

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    1. I agree. It seems to me that "craft beer" gets about 80% of the media coverage nowadays but accounts for a tiny percentage of beer sold/drunk. Most craft beer afficianadoes I've spoken to seem to have no idea how niche craft beer is in the grand scheme of things.

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    2. Many of them scarcely ever seem to venture outside the craft beer bubble into the pubs where normal people drink, and thus form a very blinkered view of the world.

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    3. So most people who drink craft beer are not normal people then? I run a beer shop that sells predominantly craft beer and I can guarantee you that the vast majority of our customers are just regular people. NOT just hipsters living in a bubble as you seem to think. Craft beer may represent a small percentage of beer sold but it is growing rapidly and more and more 'normal' people are getting into it. It's also worth pointing out that a lot of them also enjoy traditional real ale and don't get involved in this 'us and them' nonsense.

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  2. The other Mudgie !23 April 2018 at 13:38

    Well-reasoned comments as we’ve come to expect.
    The biggest disappointment is indeed that the whole thing was reminiscent of a Soviet Bloc election. The “two seeming diametrically opposed votes” was best explained by you elsewhere in that “the disparity arises from the fact that Lynn Atack was able to put her manifesto to the electorate, whereas the opponents of the SRs weren’t”.
    The Glass House Beer Company throwing stones, or toys out of pram, comes as no surprise !

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  3. I voted against SR 6. What's the point of having a campaigning group for real ale if we're told to support any old smoothflow, fizz, craft crap. We were told we would support quality beer, who decides what quality beer is. You'd have stuff like Fosters etc claiming Camra support & that's just not on.

    Well done to all those members that voted against SR6.

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  4. A sad and disastrous day for beer. A bunch of old fogeys with no future ensured the kids will have no future by quite literally pissing in the craft murk. Uneducated racists mainly, who only care about boring cheap wetherspoons bitter. Why are they even allowed a vote?

    Well we are the 72% ! We demand a second vote ! A peoples vote !

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    1. So form your own 'Campaign For Any Old Fizzy Crap'. Or 'Campaign For Emperors New Clothes. Or 'Campaign For The Latest Overpriced Hipster Trend'.
      I'm actually amazed that the right decision has been made, given the hard line propaganda from CAMRA HQ over the past couple of years about this whole Revitalisation nonsense. Anyone could see this was a blatant exercise in preserving well paid jobs in St Albans.
      What is the point of The Campaign For Real Ale if it no longer focuses on real ale? That's why I joined 12 years ago, because I'm only interested in the preservation of real ale. I don't even care about cider (but that's a whole other arguement). I certainly have no interest in anything cold, carbonated and costing £5+ just because it has a flashy keg dispenser or trendy name. If I did I wouldn't have bothered joining CAMRA in the first place or bother renewing each year.
      And this is my point. The hand wringing fools who came up with this Revitalisation nonsense in the first place would have saved themselves a lot of time (and money!) if they had stopped worrying about falling membership applications from youngsters and concentrated more on not upsetting the loyal active long term members. The ones that actually run CAMRA at a local level. I can tell you now that if SR6 had been passed, I and others I know of would leave the organisation. So CAMRA may have gained a few thousand extra bright young things eulogising their "Salted caramel and gooseberry IPA", but lost many thousands of others like myself who joined up because we actually care about the history and traditions of the very drink CAMRA was set up to protect, and not just to grab a bunch of 'Spoons vouchers to neck cheap booze on a student night out.
      And before someone calls me a dinosaur I'm only 45.
      If you want to support any old crap they sell down the pub, or supermarket for that matter, then form your own 'Couldn't Care Less What I Slurp Campain'. But I do care about real ale and that's why I applaud everybody who voted down SR6. The hipsters and sadly it would seem, many at the top of CAMRA, don't speak for me. Stop with the shoegazing CAMRA and just carry on doing succesfully what you have been doing for the past 47 years. It doesn't matter that we're not cool. It matters that we care about REAL ALE.

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    2. Good comment - but bear in mind Cookie is a wind-up merchant ;-)

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    3. When we go to my aunts we sometimes have spagetty and she puts wine in it what do you put lager in

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    4. @ anom

      Clearly reading SR6 would have helped as the binding text did not say the campaign would, ahem, campaign for "any old crap" or "flashy keg dispenser or trendy name".

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    5. Nice one Cookie, you certainly provoked the reaction you were looking for there. I'd call that a house on Buzzword Bingo (Real Ale Twats Edition).

      Complete with the usual assertion that "The ones that actually run CAMRA at a local level" were against SR6 and the rest of the SRs. Translation "My branch has had the same chairman for 25 years, doesn't like change and is very representative of the other 200 branches"

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  5. Is it true, as one of the twits asserts, that only 10% of the membership voted?

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    1. from what Ive read from official sources, yes approx 18,000 members voted, so yeah probably just under 10% really, though Im not sure why thats of particular significance though. only about 25,000 engaged in the revitalisation surveys, and CAMRA went to a great deal of expense to allow ALL members to vote, Id argue they didnt allow ALL members to engage in debating the proposals, might have been able to clear up the wording of SR6 had they, but everyone had an opportunity to vote and its not like you had to be registered for a year to be able to vote.

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    2. The other Mudgie !23 April 2018 at 19:09

      Or 8% ?

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    3. If you add in all those that didn't vote into the craft keg side then there is well over 75% for change?

      These old codgers didn't win! It's a fix ! Facebook & Putin warped the tiny little minds !

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  6. Voting for SR3 - to protect pubs - but not SR6 - to represent the interest of pub goers seems a bit inconsistent.

    Surely the latter is the best way to implement the former

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  7. I am nothing as i am not included in the 72% or the 18% whatever that means.
    But pubs still have beer in them i know because i passed them on bus and people were still drinking there so what is so disastrous.

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    1. Spot on Alan. Pubs matter, not CAMRA. Use them or lose them.

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    2. What CAMRA needs to do is prepare for a post pubs, post real ale future and ensure it has relevance with the kids .

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    3. What? You passed one, without going in Alan? Crumbs.

      But yes, bravo to that.

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  8. the thing that perplexes me most about the online "faux" outrage, and Alan is spot on the vast vast majority of people are still sitting in pubs happily drinking all types of beer and not paying a blind bit of notice to any of this, is nearly all the people who claim CAMRA isnt being inclusive of beer styles by not passing SR6, almost all then contradict themselves as self claimed inclusive beer advocates, by denigrating 1 if not all 3 of the top selling cask beers in the country

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    1. Some of the reaction seems to have been completely disproportionate to what actually happened. It's as if the whole concept of Revitalisation had been thrust back into outer darkness, whereas in fact most of the spirit of it has been accepted. And they can sell non-real British beers at beer festivals now!

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  9. I might have voted to include 'craft' if they had promised to campaign the reduce the cost of the stuff.
    As it is, when you walk into a pub and the SAME beer is on cask for £3.50 and £5.50 for keg, and the £3.50 pint is lovely, maybe they do need including to help me understand why I should burn another £2.

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  10. I think David C Brown makes a great point. Protecting pubs would be best achieved by embracing other drinks.

    Pubs are closing because people don’t use them enough. Maybe if more pubs innovated and embraced the growing selection of drinks that are available on the market more people who go more often.

    My local pub will likely die because it’s stuck in a rut serving musty poor quality macro-cask which is the main thing that CAMRA exists to support. Cask marque, Good Beer Guide, it’s got it all, but if it doesn’t modernise to embrace the growing industry (independent brewers offering a widening variety of high quality ales, that are also marketed in the right way - and marketing IS important in a leisure industry).

    Old keg beer grew because the big industry nasties flooded the market with it. Modern breweries are growing because they truly operate at grass roots level and attract local consumers to engage with them through offering a good product and offering it in the right places. CAMRA will struggle in future if it doesn’t acknowledge the difference.

    From: a dedicated cask ale drinker who doesn’t want to drink Doom Bar surrounded by Morris Men.

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    1. The other Mudgie !24 April 2018 at 11:31

      Ben,
      But “embracing other drinks” isn’t necessary for “Protecting pubs”.
      For forty years CAMRA has represented ALL beer drinkers when campaigning on beer tax and has represented ALL pub-goers in its efforts to support the public house, and always without the need to pontificate on whether non-Real Ales might be “high-quality” or “chemical fizz”.

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  11. All these old people, that have ruined the future of us kids by sticking with the wetherspoons bitter and shunning a £8 third of 12% imperial DIPA murk have killed CAMRA and will kill pubs.

    It's the kids that are the future. teach them well and watch them lead the way, ........

    Well what the codgers have done is piss all over that future with a desire for pubs to remain the preserve of white old men. How come? Racism? Ageism? Lack of education? All of the above? They are killing the dream and cannot be allowed a vote in the second vote for sure!

    We are the 72 percent ! Second vote ! Let's have a people's vote and fix this horrible mess !

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    1. When the kids get older they will no longer want to pay £8 (equiv) for 12% of DIPA or anything else. They will be the old men preserving what CAMRA has campained for.

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    2. Too many layers of sarcasm, too many times, Cookie. Just say what you want.

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  12. I am 28 and I like wetherspoons bitter its nice and I have it at the one in slough

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    1. Get thee on the craft keg, my friend and with it you will instantly become more handsome, successful & attractive to the opposite sex. The ladies of spoons don't drag the Ruddles drinkers behind the bins, they look out for the punk beer kids.

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  13. I agree with your measured summary of the situation,however,with campaigning organisations it is the public perception that counts. By rejecting part of the revitalisation process CAMRA is perceived as being out of touch and the public perception of its retreat to a preservation organisation will affect its ability to be recognised as a serious campaigner in a rapidly changing market.

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  14. I was going to go with some smart sounding repost to those who I suspect are cutting up their cards and cancelling DD as I type but I'll just state it now, as trite as it may be.

    Those leaving CAMRA I bet are apparently forward thinking, liberal remain voters. Sick that their money goes to an institution that apparently doesn't represent them and they don't want to stay and change that institution for the better from the inside because they are all really uneducated bigots.

    Of course to keep up this analogy CAMRA would have to be a distant, unelected, undemocratic, bureaucratic nightmare passing laws against the sovereign wishes of a majority of their membership.

    The hypocrisy of it all

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    1. The other Mudgie !25 April 2018 at 10:27

      I am not one of them but I suspect those who are cutting up their cards and cancelling DD rather than being “uneducated bigots” firstly wanted to be in a Campaign for Real Ale that’s not also a Campaign for allegedly “high-quality” pressurised beers and secondly resented how “undemocratic” the ‘Revitalisation’ project has been.

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    2. Hmm, perhaps I was not clear with my target in my last comment. If "traditionalists" are leaving then that is one thing.

      My thrust would be that is the "modernisers" leaving, who would paint a caricature of the "traditionalist" as always being Brexiteers and yet they themselves now fall into a trap of their own petty prejudices about all issues that are not simply black and white.

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    3. The other Mudgie !25 April 2018 at 15:49

      "Modernisers" are leaving because SR6 was defeated and "traditionalists" are leaving because the other nine Special resolutions were carried.
      Both sides have “their own petty prejudices about all issues that are not simply black and white”.

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    4. I just want to be part of a campaign that has future where we're all passionate, enthusiastic and happy. I wanted to be revitalised...

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    5. @Rob - I fear you'll be disappointed on that score. Maybe try joining Momentum instead ;-)

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  15. "Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit", Boozy.

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  16. One suspects that if the NE elections had been a two horse race (roughly for/against change), the majority for Lynn would have not been as marked. Those who didn't want change really had only one person to vote for. Those who voted for change had nine candidates to spread their four votes across. Unless we know the voting pattern (i.e. how many just voted for Lynn) then we'll never know for sure.

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    1. Yes, had it been a two-horse race, it's unlikely that Lynn Atack would have won. But it wasn't. There still seems to be an assumption behind your comment (as we have discussed on Discord) that there is some way people can magnify their vote by just voting for one candidate which, in absolute terms, simply isn't the case. And the fact remains that at least 47% of voters cast at least one vote for Lynn, whereas only 27.4% voted against SR6. FWIW I voted for the full four candidates, of whom two (the other being Gillian Hough) were elected.

      There seems to be a lot of regret about losing the services of Ian Hill from the NE - sadly, it seems he was caught up in the Revitalisation debate. It could be argued that Ash Corbett-Collins (for whom I have very little time) benefited from being seen as the leading moderniser. There was also a "political" element to last year's results, but of those who may have benefited from this, Michael Hardman has had a very low profile, and Ben Wilkinson's chief achievement seems to have been winding people up the wrong way on Discord.

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  17. Definitely a “mixed bag” Mudge, as I inferred on my own blog. I may have approached the issue from the opposite end of the spectrum to you, by voting in favour of all but one of the Special Resolutions, but my feelings about CAMRA’s future are probably similar to yours.

    I’ve nothing to add on the NE elections, and will need to look back at my paper copy of the manifestos to see who I actually voted for (I’m pretty sure Lynn Atack wasn’t on the list!)

    Definitely good news though that CAMRA has dropped its nonsensical opposition to “cask breathers”. That will certainly upset a few dinosaurs, including one or two in my local branch. I shouldn’t say it, but most of us will be glad to see the back of them!

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  18. I was struggling to reach two cheers.

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    1. The other Mudgie !27 April 2018 at 15:06

      I couldn't manage one.

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    2. The "two cheers" was more a comment on the attitude of the CAMRA membership as a whole than a personal reaction.

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    3. The other Mudgie !28 April 2018 at 12:14

      Ah, thanks for that clarification.

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  19. Roger Protz's initial tweet and the very confused reporting in the press of what was voted on and what passed didn't help I think.

    My Twitter feed was full of craft beer fans convinced that CAMRA had voted to go back to the 1950s and traditionalists simultaneously convinced we'd voted to become the Campaign for Carling and/or Punk IPA, both threatening to cut up their membership cards etc.

    As you rightly point out, the result was more nuanced.

    Certainly an eventful first Member's Weekend for me.

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