Saturday 30 January 2010

Speak up for drinkers!

I recently looked at why CAMRA remained so puzzlingly silent in the face of the current tidal wave of anti-drink sentiment, and set up a poll asking “Should CAMRA do more to fight the rise of neo-Prohibitionism?”

There were 74 responses – I think the highest for any poll apart from the smoking ban one – and the results were:

Yes, it should speak out: 56 (76%)
No, we have alcohol problems that need to be addressed: 1 (1%)
No, it should adopt a narrower, non-political role: 1 (1%)
It’s a waste of space anyway: 16 (22%)

That must be one of the most conclusive results in any poll I have ever run. More than three-quarters of people took the view it should speak out more, while only one went for Option 2 which is closest to the current view of the leadership, and likewise only one selected Option 3 which at least, as I said in a comment, has the benefit of intellectual coherence.

I assume most of those who answered “It’s a waste of space anyway” are people who believe that neo-Prohibitionism should be resisted, but CAMRA has been so compromised by its equivocation on this issue as to be incapable of mounting any successful challenge.

So a very clear signal there, but don’t hold your breath for any change of course.

While CAMRA remains wedded to the ideas the a minimum alcohol price that raises the typical price of off-trade drinks will benefit the pub trade (which it won’t) and that most consumption of off-trade alcohol is inherently irresponsible (which it isn’t) then don’t expect any change from the current sleepwalk into prohibition.

First, they came for the cheap lager drinkers, but I never drank cheap lager, so I wasn’t concerned…


  1. I have signed up to your current poll, but I can't be sure I've answered correctly. I first drank shandy in various clubs (cricket clubs; that was what 'club' meant in those days) at the age of 14 (I think they'd prefer to remain nameless, given the current climate).

    Is that what you had in mind?

  2. Back in those days shandy wasn't really regarded as an alcoholic drink, whereas now the Righteous would react with horror to someone under-18 having something that is about 1.5% ABV.

    Perhaps think about when you first had an undiluted alcoholic drink.

  3. Righto. Although my first alcoholic drink was McMullen's AK, and some people doubt the 'undiluted' status of that particular ale.

  4. I missed the original poll but having just read the original, and excellent, post I would've voted that yes, they need to speak out.

    Whilst I agree that what they do best is be a non-political beer drinkers club they have previously put themselves out in the political agenda and now, at a time when the more positive messages we can get out there about responsible drinking the better, a body like this that is recognised by many should feel a responsibility to stand up and champion beer - even if it is only pongy ale ;o)

  5. For most of its members, in reality CAMRA is a beer drinkers' club. It puts together a calendar of social meetings and pub crawls, publishes local newsletters, runs brewery trips, organises beer festivals etc. Any national campaigning is something of an irrelevance, and has become more so as the network of specialist pubs grows and insulates the beer buff from the wider world.

    A further problem is that many of CAMRA's activities by definition drive a coach and horses through the official safe drinking guidelines, so it is hard to stand up and be counted without a frontal challenge to the politically correct orthodoxy. You can't argue the case on the terms of the opposition, otherwise you will lose.

    For example, the average consumption of beer at CAMRA beer festivals is said to be 3.5 pints. This is often seen as a surprisingly low figure, but if we assume the average strength is 4.5% ABV, that amounts to 9 units, which is a "binge", even for a man. "CAMRA promotes binge drinking" - doesn't look good, does it? And if you go in the average well-run traditional community local at 10.45 on a Friday night, odds are that a high proportion of customers will have consumed at least four pints during the evening.

  6. Great point - which says more about the validity sensible drinking guidelines than it does about CAMRA!!

    I think, as you've already mentioned, they should be one thing or the other and with all the media noise now feels like make or break time. If they're not prepared to come out in defence of the responsible enjoyment of beer then they need to be clear that they are a beer club

  7. I voted "it's a waste of space" not to be rude but more that as a beer club its sounds quite nice. As a campaign there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to appreciate a traditional product. Your beer club is not representative of drinkers, therefore expressing a wider political view on the price of my lout is unwelcome.

  8. Kristy - that point may actually be worthy of a post in its own right. Watch this space.

    Cookie - Your beer club is not representative of drinkers, therefore expressing a wider political view on the price of my lout is unwelcome.

    As you know, I agree ;-)

  9. I don't remember that line in Martin Niemoeller's 'poem'.

    Is it a poem I wonder?

  10. Does CAMRA successfully campaigning for the revocation of Land Agreements Exclusion Order 2004, which more or less exempts PubCos from competition laws, count as an example of standing up for drinkers? As I'm sure you know, the government's scrapped them from April 2011.

  11. RedNev,

    That may prove to be a valuable reform, but it isn't in any sense countering the neo-Prohibitionists, which is what the poll was about.


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