Wednesday 25 January 2012

CAMRA Fail Community Pubs - And Everyone Else - Again!

The Morning Advertiser's big splash yesterday detailed how CAMRA were condemning the government for their treatment of 'community pubs'. I tweeted it thus.

Because we all know how fervently they campaigned for the property rights of community pub owners pre 2007, don't we? Oddly, the triumphant post at CAMRA's website which welcomed the smoking ban has been removed, but local chapters give you the general gist of their stoic resistance.

Still, at least they're manning the ramparts now, albeit late, by commissioning a comprehensive report. Well, kinda. Despite the observable damage - widely predicted prior to the ban - there is little in it about restoring some kind of self-determination of smoking policy for community pubs. This is about the sum of it.
IPPR asked colleagues at Sheffield University to explore some potential reasons for explaining why pub closure rates might be higher in some areas than others. They examined the correlation at constituency level between pub closures and two other variables: the level of deprivation and smoking rates. The latter was intended to allow us to explore the impact of the ban on smoking in public places.
They could have, I dunno, suggested relaxing the 50% exposed rule on smoking shelters, or restated earlier calls for smoking rooms for 'landlocked' pubs, but decided to swerve such things.

So, the extent of this deep research was to see if differences in geographical closures could be explained by geographical conditions, completely ignoring that pub fortunes had suffered markedly everywhere since July 2007 (and well before the onset of the recession); that the pub experience had been devalued for smokers and many non-smokers; and that working class areas (where smoking prevalence is higher) are traditionally more unwilling to ditch pub life than wealthier ones, which would confound such a simplistic approach.
Our brief analysis of why pub closure rates differ between parliamentary constituencies indicates that there is a weak positive correlation between closure rates and smoking rates in England. However, this may be hiding other explanatory variables: for example, it may be simply because smoking rates are higher in more deprived communities.
And the whitewash is complete. The real problem - obviously something CAMRA find a bit too sticky to tackle - can now be ignored, which is all rather hunky-dory for an organisation who quite like smokefree pubs despite community ones being destroyed by the ban but still, politically, need to show some semblance of 'doing something'.

All of which probably explains their choice of report author. You see, out of all the think tanks they could have chosen, they plumped for one which is rather compromised. Recommending amendments to the smoking ban wouldn't play well with the IPPR's funders, for a start.

Such as, in the £10k-£20k category, Pfizer - manufacturers of nicotine replacement therapy extraordinaire, and perennial sponsors of smokefree conferences worldwide.

Under the more generous £50k-£100k group, we find the Nuffield Foundation, who designed the 'Intervention Ladder' for clamping down on what the state deems as unapproved lifestyle choices. Not heard of it? Their graphic below gives you a clue.

And, of course, the sole funder in the £100k+ category, and therefore not to be offended in any way whatsoever, is the EU. This continent's prime driver of anti-smoking policies.

CAMRA knew, by commissioning the IPPR, that any correct - but inconvenient - analysis of why pubs are dying on their arses would be swept under the carpet, especially since the IPPR have quite a link to the party which bludgeoned through the Health Act 2006 in the first place.

That's quite a few big feeding hands that the IPPR would do well not to bite too hard. And, do you know, I think CAMRA knew this when they sat down to 'help' community pubs. Treble Bishop's Fingers all round!

If you're knowledgeable in this area, you'll also have noticed one other striking coincidence - happily for CAMRA - in the choice of University to carry out the smoking ban research. Sheffield have form, you see.
2008 - University of Sheffield government-funded research suggests minimum price would reduce alcohol harm.
In fact, the University of Sheffield 'research' on minimum pricing of alcohol is the one quoted exclusively by anti-booze campaigners in the face of dozens of others which rubbish the - well, rubbish - idea.

But then, why choose any other when requiring a report to come to this conclusion.
5.2.6 Minimum pricing to reduce the price differential between the on and the off trade

The difference between the price of beer sold in the on and the off trades has led to more people drinking at home or in places other than licensed premises. As beer tax has increased, so too has the price of beer in pubs. The supermarkets are able to use their market power to ensure that increased duty is not passed on by their suppliers.

They can also afford to sell alcohol at below cost and as a loss leader to entice customers through their doors and spend on other products. Alcohol is not like any old commodity, because excessive consumption is damaging to health and contributes significantly to crime and disorder. This is why alcohol is taxed in the first place. There is therefore a case for preventing the sale of alcohol at very low prices. To do this a minimum retail price per unit of alcohol should be introduced.

The Scottish government is now implementing such a policy and in England the chief medical officer has voiced his support. Researchers at Sheffield University estimate that a minimum price of 40p per unit would reduce consumption especially among excessive drinkers and the young. While this would put up prices in shops and supermarkets, pub prices are already well above that level and would be unaffected.
When, oh when, are these CAMRA blockheads going to recognise a threat when they see it? Sheesh!


Smoking Hot said...

When the sun rises in the west, that's when.

thelincolnimp said...

The problem with CAMRA is they seem to want to dictate what a good pub is, personally I wouldn't put my name to one of their campaigns if you paid me.

It's like the 'only the rubbish pubs has closed argument' you might think they were rubbish, but before the ban they had a market and enough people liked them to keep them open, for some reason these dolts dont seem to be able to grasp this concept.

De Profundis said...

No anon
No privacy
Free speech needs no authors
No comment

non sum dignus said...

No anon
No privacy
Free speech needs no authors
No comment

c777 said...

The year 2017,
The venue the dog and duck or whatever.
A CAMFRFAVJ event,(the CAMpaign For Real Fruit and Vegetable Juice).
Picture the scene.
Oh yes what a deeelightfull litte carrot juice.
Yes old chap a really carroty bouquet.
Of course by then the smart ones will be brewing their own.
I have seen the future CAMRA.
Have you?

Junican said...

Some strange conclusions there. They want publicans' costs reduced, but they don't want pub prices reduced for their customers ("Pub prices will not be affected by a minimum price").

They want people to go to pubs but they do not want to accomodate their wishes - definitely not smokers, not binge drinkers, possibly a few non-smokers but most of all camramen.

It is all classic propaganda, isn't it?

The main thing to me about this report is that it has confirmed what I expected to happen - an acceleration of pub closures.

Mudplugger said...

"Treble Bishops Fingers all round" - ye gods, I've not heard that phrase since I last eavesdropped outside the local convent......

Twenty Rothmans said...

I always think of them this way:

Jax said...

I’m never quite sure, when I read these “let’s not pay too much attention to that elephant” type reports whether the authors have genuinely come to believe their own rhetoric that the smoking ban is, at most, a minor contributory factor to the massive upswing in pub closures since 2007, or whether they’re just too proud to admit that they completely underestimated the effects beforehand and that we plebby smokers were right all along.  If the former, then I can at least understand their somewhat misguided attempts to take a serious look at pub closures, even if the results are going to be, inevitably, somewhat inconclusive and vague.  But if the latter, then quite frankly, I don’t know why they bother trying to keep up the appearance of “people who care about pubs,” because their routine denial of the facts is beginning to get a bit embarrassing.
But whatever the reason, reports like these make CAMRA look increasingly like people who simply don’t understand pubs - which is a pretty damning indictment, when you bear in mind their roots and what they were set up for in the first place.  If an organisation claiming to promote real ale and support real pubs can’t see what’s happening to the very establishments on whose behalf they set themselves up to campaign for, then to be honest they might as well hang up their hats, pack up and go home now.

Sue said...
The forum at camra : "39 pubs a week are still closing". I'm baffled as to why nobody wants to admit that the smoking ban is the main reason. I used to meet up with friends 2 or 3 times a week in our local back in the UK. I don't think any of us set foot in a pub after that. It was a matter of principle, they obviously didn't want our custom. They've got what they wanted.... nice, clean, smoke free, empty pubs.

Quite a lot of Spanish pubs are just ignoring the ban, they can't afford to go out of business, unemployment is dire here. Last Friday one guy was even smoking a joint while drinking his beer at the bar. The police are ignoring it, most of them are smokers too.

Curmudgeon said...

"reports like these make CAMRA look increasingly like people who simply don’t understand pubs"

Very often they have a kind of rose-tinted, idealistic view of pubs that bears little relation to the anarchic, rumbustious reality. They see them as "ale shrines" where people having a good time get in the way.

JonathanBagley said...

Here's the page CAMRA removed

Fredrik Eich said...

That was meant to be a link to the MA, I'll try again


Fredrik Eich said...

Oi Dick!
Embeded hyperlinks get changed to point to your blog?!?

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Just copy and paste the URL, it becomes a link AFAIK. No need for hyperlinks

non sum dignus said...

I was talking to a anti smoking Camra type recently who addmitted he does;nt bother with pubs anymore because they are dead,instead he
has joined Line Dancing and Highland Fling clubs where they get free tea and buns. (Excuse me while I have a full bodied wretch up)
Do the babbling Gibbons on CAMRA'S top perch actually represent the views
of it's membership or are they like The House of Commons,totally adrift
from the majority.
This last few years have shown just what a bloated,insular troup of
bleating pointless Baboons they really are.
Real England would be well rid of these froth licking carpetbaggers.


moonrakin said...

It really irks that CAMRA seem to pompously present themselves as the "voice of the discerning beer drinker", "responsible members of the community"  when they are nothing more than the voice of CAMRA...  a pressure group that has the rep of a bunch of inn-effective middle class train spotters. Tools the lot of 'em. 

david said...

A prominent link to the 'Hidden camra' page might be worth keeping on blogs so people could link to it whenever the real ale twats pontificate.

mrs.raft said...

A friend who is very anti-smoking was delighted when they banned smoking at the large theme pub at the top of the road.
"Why? You never go there" I said.
All the usual answers came out but they baffle me because I don't care whether other people smoke, I just don't want to.

A few months later the takings were down and nobody was there to put up a fight for the pub, so the landlord (who owned it) did the obvious thing: applied to have the building changed to residential and  set about raising money to develop housing on the carpark and beer garden.

My friend was livid - a true nimby, they were against the housing development. Where would the community go?

What community?  The only community there had been was now at home with a can, a cigarette and a video.

Fredrik Eich said...

jonathan I put a tiny url ( to it 
Thank goodness for the way back engine!