CAMRA election hopeful targets increased political presence

By James Beeson contact

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Election hopeful: Nicholas Hair called for CAMRA to act as a 'disruptor' and called for an end to the tied pub system
Election hopeful: Nicholas Hair called for CAMRA to act as a 'disruptor' and called for an end to the tied pub system
Nicholas Hair, regional young members' co-ordinator for the Kent branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) vowed to increase the organisation’s political influence as he seeks election to its national executive.

In an interview with The Morning Advertiser​, Hair suggested that “getting more people into pubs” needed to be the organisation’s key focus, and that this could be achieved through greater campaigning in parliament.

“It [CAMRA] has been responsible for winning planning regulation battles in parliament to protect pubs,” he said. “That is a very important thing, and the political side of CAMRA needs to be even more active in things like using ACVs (assets of community value) to protect pubs.

“We absolutely need to focus on really good pub protection and getting more people into pubs. We should be doing things like campaigning for decreased council tax rates for pubs or maybe even a slight VAT reduction for on-trade sales.

“These are things that could be campaigned for and won quite easily, which would make the cost of drinking in pubs cheaper, and people would be more likely to go to them than the supermarket."

Disruptive influence

Hair went on to say that he believed CAMRA ought to act as a “disruptor” and called for an end to the tied pub system.

"CAMRA now should be pushing politically to put the nail in the coffin of the tied pub system and fight on behalf of publicans,” he said. “Yes CAMRA is a consumer organisation, but part of supporting the consumer in this case is allowing community pubs to be viable and giving consumers cheaper products, because they haven't had to pay £130 for a nine-gallon firkin through the tied pub system.

“CAMRA needs to be a disruptor of big business, and needs to tell the breweries that own these pubs that we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour."

The young members' co-ordinator for Kent and Bexley branch committee member also echoed the views​ of rival candidate Ashley Corbett-Collins, stating his belief that the Revitalisation Project proposals to campaign for “all good-quality beer” were a mistake.

"When the project was first announced, I felt like the people who announced it, and the way in which it was being conducted, spoke as if to say that the conclusions they wanted were what they were going to ask about,” he said. “They wanted to see CAMRA broadening its horizons, and in doing so they made sure the questions and feedback sessions were geared towards that.”

"I think that what CAMRA is fighting for, and what CAMRA should always fight for, is increased market share and education about why cask ale is a viable and very good option for people in pubs and clubs. There isn't a war to be won here, its about education and understanding.”

Appealing to all corners

Hair also acknowledged that diversity was “a massive issue” for CAMRA, and suggested recruitment at universities and nominal membership fees as ways of getting younger people involved with the organisation.

“We are not doing is we are not making enough strides to get young people involved,” he said. “I have suggested in my region, and will suggest nationally, that we should be making pro-active recruitment at things like universities a priority.

“We need to become less clunky in what we do, and we should look more useful and dynamic and appealing to get everyone of all ages, genders, creeds and colours involved. It is such a great organisation to take part in, and the fact we are not getting away from that 60-plus male image is part of the reason people are not joining."

“What the likes of Tiny Rebel have shown is that beer drinkers can be swayed to cask through marketing,” he continued. “That shows that CAMRA is doing the right thing [in promoting cask] but doing it in the wrong way.

“It's about doing everything we can do get young people drinking cask beer, from giving them free entry to beer festivals (as we do here in Bexley) to giving them free or nominal membership fees for the first year. They are little things that we can be doing to get more young people involved.”

Related topics: Beer

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