With friends like these...

By Rob Willock

- Last updated on GMT

With friends like these...
At 4pm last Wednesday, there was an unfortunate clash of diary dates for two events that both purported to be about ‘saving the British pub’.

One marked 10 years of Pub is the Hub, the not-for-profit organisation dedicated to offering advice and support to licensees, rural pubs and their communities.

Around 150 licensees, pubco bosses, suppliers and association representatives heard uplifting case studies of pubs that have started to offer additional local services — at once making themselves more central and viable.

The other was a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group (APPSPG), whose stated mission is “to bring together members of the House of Commons and House of Lords who want to add their voice to the efforts to preserve and protect the British pub”.

Around 30 licensees and MPs tucked into Enterprise Inns’ chief operating officer Simon Townsend and British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds, accusing them of not doing enough to ensure a fair deal for pub tenants.

The PMA was represented journalistically at both events. I was at the former as a guest speaker along with the community pubs minister Brandon Lewis and the CEO of Diageo, Paul Walsh — both of whom announced they were granting more money to Pub is the Hub. And one of our reporters attended and recorded the latter.

The atmospheres of these two events could not have been more different, but both concluded in some sort of celebratory fashion. After the Pub is the Hub event, attendees were pleased to see the time, money and effort being spent on the initiative were making a real difference to pubs and their communities. After the APPSPG meeting, attendees were delighted that they had forced their ‘guest speakers’ into various admissions.

Triumphant tweets from APPSPG chair Greg Mulholland included: “Extraordinary revelations at #savethepubgroup meeting. Did you hear?”; “Ministers must feel v embarrassed today! #woolpulledovereyes #soldapup”; “Codes will not be in place till middle of next year!”; “BBPA admit they have no role re tenant profitability!” and “#savethepubgroup again delivered
@morningad front page”.

There followed a concerted and aggressive effort from various parties to demand of the PMA that we cover the story prominently — as indeed we do today — as well as some fanciful and frankly libellous conspiracy theories on social-networking sites about the PMA’s relationship with Enterprise.

There are a number of groups acting as self-appointed champions of tied tenanted licensees and enemies of pubcos — including the APPSPG, Justice for Licensees, Fair Pint and the GMB. They all have important contributions to make and genuine grievances to air. But all too often the victimhood, indignation, hostility and insulting behaviour of a small number of their more militant acolytes damage their mission and erode their due sympathy.

To these people I would suggest they are not really helping the cause of struggling licensees; I would urge them to take a more positive and inclusive approach (like Pub is the Hub, for example); and I would recommend they add to their reading list the following, excellent book by Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I’d particularly recommend the chapter entitled How to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment.

Happy Christmas!

Related topics: Legislation

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