The Vultures Are Circling – CAMRA : Censorship, Confusion and (Eventually) Campaigning

I said I was done with SBR. But that is the final paragraph of an email sent to CAMRA branches, signed by Gillian Hough – Chair of Real Ale, Cider & Perry Campaigns on 12th August.

Hindsight. It’s a truly wonderful thing. As is proof reading. And brain storming. Because that one paragraph didn’t half cause some consternation. Amongst both members and those – like me – who (generally) consider themselves as allies. And – in my case – have been forward and passionate in defence of Small Brewers Duty Relief.

The whole thing was cack handed. It amounted to censorship of individuals. Something that can never be tolerated. And wasn’t, with a number of people resigning their memberships in anger. Just one of a number of recent faux pas (I won’t screen shot an image of “The Glass”) that reinforces the negative view  that some of the beer commentariat have about CAMRA. And yet, whilst indeed “wince inducing”, CAMRA HQ – even in their St Albans ivory tower – are not above the odd volte face.

What that initial email provoked was a bout of “fence sitting” and the restatement of a belief (by some) that CAMRA HQ (which should be regarded as a different beast from individual branches) was “in the pay” of some of the breweries that comprise the SBDRC. An unfortunate image indeed.

What the Government announced a couple of weeks ago has – by some ‘fence sitters” been viewed as a consultation on the proposals. It is definitely NOT that at all. It is  to discuss how the proposals are to be implemented.

How. Not “if”.

This needs to focus minds. Yes, as some have pointed out, people (myself included) have focused on the drop in duty relief (PLEASE use the correct taxation term. Not the SBDRC spin of “discount” or “reduction”. Stop. That. Shit. Now.) and ranted less on the conversion of the remaining relief to a “cash basis”. But no, that hasn’t been overlooked. And it IS an important detail of the review. But, get a grip of this. There is no “wait and see” about this. If you do that, you are – in my eyes – complicit in the destruction of livelihoods and Brewing businesses.

Personally – and this IS my personal opinion – there is (and never has been) room for “fence sitting” on this debate. Never been time to “wait and see” how the “review” pans out. The review has been completed! The time to act was 2.5 years ago. Do you think that the SBDRC were “waiting to see” how this review panned out. No. They were burrowing into Government.

I strongly suspected that they spent their time networking politicians. And if you want an influencer on your side, you want the biggest. How I wish I’d made the link between Rupert Thompson and Government. Realised that his MP was THE most influential Government figure, Michael Gove. I doff my cap to Keith Flett for the above piece.

Those calling for boycotts of SBDRC members products have been ridiculed as being “over the top”. I haven’t advocated that. I’ve been doing it for nearly 3 years. I’ve never understood the love in with breweries like Harvey’s, Fullers & Lees that some have indulged in. This recent love affair with “Traditional” Bitter and those that brew it. This attachment to Family breweries. Those same big breweries are those attacking smaller Micros. They are the enemy. Recognise that or don’t. But they are.

Back to CAMRA HQ.

The above missive was a welcome flip on the previous mess. It is clear. This is the start of CAMRA campaigning for choice. And the support of CAMRA – the focus and the weight that it can bring – is vital. It’s easy – and incredibly lazy – to treat CAMRA as an Aunt Sally, to beat with a stick when you hear something you don’t like. If you don’t recognise the influence and power that CAMRA can bring to bear – when engaged and focused – then you are a fool. If you don’t recognise the impact that CAMRA has had on beer worldwide, then you are equally foolish.

Read the above. That was emailed to those who signed the petition to reverse the changes to SBR. The language lifted and shifted from SBDRC propaganda. Swallowed by the Treasury. Hook. Line. Sinker.

If you had any doubt about what it going to happen, then that should remove the blinkers.

This fight for the future of beer is here (not the past – represented by the self-interested, profit hungry members of the SBDRC and IFBB (Independent Family Brewers of Britain). It is happening now. This is not a time to sit on the fence. Join in. Link arms with SIBA, CAMRA and the newly launched Small Brewers Forum. If you’re not going to fight to save its future, then get out of the way.

Or – in one of my favourite quaint phrases – “If you’re not going to shit, get off the pot”


Back soon. Jx