marketing opinion

A Tactical Error?

One of the strengths of the Campaign for Real Ale has been its political… neutrality isn’t quite the right word… let’s say, vagueness.

It has been denounced as dangerously left-wing — anarchistic, in fact — by big brewers, and yet conservatives (small C), Conservatives (big C) and even fascists have been active members, alongside socialists like Roger Protz. As long as the focus is on beer and pubs, then everyone seems to rub along more-or-less happily, and membership hasn’t been a political statement.

Yesterday, however, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a group which argues for small government and lower taxes, started a campaign against the Beer Duty Escalator, and promptly began spamming every brewery, beer writer and boozer in the land. CAMRA responded like this:

The problem is that the TPA, unlike CAMRA, do have an obvious position on the political spectrum — they are funded by secret donors, but widely thought to be allied, in a rather shadowy manner, to the right wing of the Conservative Party — and some left-leaning CAMRA members reacted with displeasure at this new development.

CAMRA’s response was a tactical error because it risks alienating a big chunk of CAMRA’s membership from what has become a key campaign issue; it allows a campaign about something very specific to be co-opted as part of a wider campaign for lower taxes. It will cause many to question their opposition to the Beer Duty Escalator as they connect that specific tax with a reduction in public services (e.g. libraries) to which they might also be opposed.

The TPA have a good track-record in winning battles they enter, partly because of well-funded and cleverly-conceived PR stunts, so perhaps its worth losing or annoying a few members to gain the assistance of such a powerful ally.

Our feeling, however, is that CAMRA has more to gain in the long run from remaining aloof from politics with a capital P; and that a simple ‘thanks for your support’ would have been more appropriate in this case.

Practicing what we preach, we’re keeping our politics vague: this is a comment on CAMRA’s PR tactics, not on the TPA, or even the Escalator.

11 replies on “A Tactical Error?”

Agreed, it feels rather uncomfortable to have such bedfellows. It could be seen as worse that the Sun has taken up the cause as it’s almost certainly going to be used as a stick to beat whichever aspect of the current government it is that displeases Murdoch.

I agree entirely; I was watching twitter yesterday and couldn’t help wondering if CAMRA are too eager to get into bed with any group who might further their cause.

It’s particularly curious that they’re promoting the TPA’s campaign there, rather than their own. Have CAMRA given up and just decided to let a political group take over their consumer protection campaign?!

” The TPA have a good track-record in winning battles they enter, partly because of well-funded and cleverly-conceived PR stunts. ”

That’s the key.
CAMRA has responded favourably to a non-sandalista organisation backing one of its campaigns.
Does it really matter what their political perusasion is provided they’re successful ?

That’s also one of the reasons behind UKIP’s growing political success – they actually promote policies people want rather than what political parties think they ought to want.

No-one likes a loser. Just ask the Lib-Dems.

There might be some disquiet about the TPA among the more leftist, but these days they’re a minority of the minority that makes up the active membership, those in it for the ‘spoons vouchers wont even know this has happened. I think most CAMRA members who know about it will take the view “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.

Do you know Roger P was often known as Protz the Trotz in the 70s?

The simplistic labels of “left” and “right” are often rather unhelpful, but surely lower taxes in general and a smaller role for the state is something generally perceived as “right-wing”.

And saying beer duty should be cut but everything else should be raised is just special pleading and not exactly a very coherent position.

I have to say I chortled somewhat at the likely reaction of some of the beardy lefties in CAMRA 😉

but I dont see the link or difference personally, if people are complaining that “really pleased” somehow equals “Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter” then frankly theyd complain just as vocally for “thanks for your support”, because basically as much as you might like to keep the politics out of it, that kind of reaction is based solely on the political views of that person.

and if the CAMRA membership, with shall we say with these vaguer political affiliations, hadnt connected already that campaigning to cut at least BeerDuty tax, though there are other taxes that impact the pub/beer trade, means were campaigning for a reduction in the money government has to spend,then what part of this debate have they been following…if at all.

because the line the government have been peddling at every opportunity on this campaign in response for the past year or more, from treasury spokespeople in the debates, to the letters your MP grudgingly sends you,to no doubt the line the chancellor is already preparing to read out in 3 weeks time, is we cant cut beer duty it will cost the treasury £105million and we cant afford it (even if delaying fuel duty rises costs the treasury 6times as much) and as no-one is actually offering alternatives…and those that are, are doing so for political reasons 😉 and we are left, or should that be right, where we are.

It always makes me laugh to see political certainties overturned and who says cask beer has to be political? The leftist involvement in beer has also always perplexed me as the brewing and licensing industry is about enterprise, rather than the dead hand of the state; people are making exciting beers because they sell, there is still an element of profit in changing the world (if you want brewing as a social enterprise then Pausa Cafe in Turin is more that sort of thing).

Anyway, Winston Churchill said he would have made a favourable comment on the devil if Hitler had invaded hell when the USSR was attacked, CAMRA was just doing the same.

That’s what makes it a tactical error: it exposes or at least prompts people to think about some of these contradictions. What CAMRA needs is everyone to rally behind the cause without thinking much *beyond* it.

I hate the way beer becomes a ‘cause’ — it’s so Wolife Smith…I always see it as an essential part of the fabric of life (unless of course you’re a teetotaller or dispsomaniac)

Well I’m OK with good beer as a cause. However, I don’t want that tied up with partisan politics of either left wing or right wing flavours. I’d much rather CAMRA be a campaign anyone of any political persuasion can get involved and enjoy with without any worries about how it fits into political ideology.

So to sum up, I’m uneasy about CAMRA sucking up to the Tax Dodgers Alliance, although I would be at least as unhappy if they were to link up with a similar left wing group.

I’m also not convinced that the Tax Dodgers Alliance will help us sell our cause to non-Tory MP’s. I have one of those who is supposed to represent my local area in Westminster. She already ignores correspondance about the beer duty escalator and is likely to become even more hostile to a cause being noisly backed by the Tax Dodgers Alliance.

“Tax Dodgers’ Alliance” – nice to see such a lack of bias and rancour in your posting. I assume you have no interest in seeing that the tax you pay is well spent. And each year you donate a substantial sum to the Exchequer above your legal obligation.


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