Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unfair or not

Before I start this article, I should make it clear that is not a criticism of any one individual nor of an organisation in general but is rather my view on a situation which I find unfair.

I have recently spoken to the Chairman of Huddersfield Camra, of which I am also a member, but I should stress, due to reasons of my own, a non active member. Part of the conversation was the way that the local branch selects its pub and club of the year, (and also its pub of the season).
My belief is that the members of the branch, who attend a certain meeting are allowed to vote for their choice on the night and the pub gaining the largest number of votes on the night is duly elected ' Pub of The Year'.

I can see many reasons for this being unfair. All sorts of factors come into play. I accept that to vote one has to be a Camra member and I have no issue with this, but it is possible for a certain pub to rally its members to attend that one meeting to boost its chances of winning. It depends where the meeting is. Surely if the meeting is held at an out of Town pub, then it would be difficult, due to the geography of the town for supporters of other pubs to attend to cast their votes. There is the very nature of the pub trade which means that often members are working in their own pubs on the night of the meeting, and also members often work shifts which make attending impossible. The system of voting is disenfranchising its members and as such, I feel the system is unfair at worst and unreliable at best.

There must be a fairer system. In the days of computerisation would it not be fairer for all members, whether active within the branch or not, to be sent an e mail listing the possible choices for them to select, thereby reaching a wider range of members and getting a chance of a more fair election. I know all members do not possess computers but most do, and those who do not could be canvassed for postal votes. All that is required, as far as I can see, is a list of names from the membership secretary and either e mail addresses or home addresses for the details to be sent out.

The local branch produce their newsletter, 'Ale Talk', which is accessible to most of the membership who drink in pubs. Is it not possible to include a voting slip in there and allow the membership to post their vote back to the branch. I know that non members read it too, but all that is required for the application to include the Camra membership number to confirm that the member is eligible to vote.
This would reach a far greater number of people than the current system and would give everyone, not just those attending the meeting, their chance to vote. It seems obvious and fair to me but may just involve a little more work at branch level to send out and count the votes.

All I am concerned about is that the system be made fairer to all, to both the members and the pubs. Surely 'The Pub of the Year' is an important enough award not be left just in the hands of those who have attended a meeting ?


Olthwaite said...

Spot on Tim! I feel The Grove has missed out on what would be a deserved award over the last few years because relatively few members get a chance to vote.

I'm not objecting to members' choice in recent years - The Rat and The Star are fabulous - but it does make you wonder if The Grove has done something to upset some of the more pernickity members.

I can't get to Camra meetings because of work so it would be great if the Huddersfield branch could follow Keighley's example and send out a list of pubs to every member for them to grade.

Udders Orchard said...

I totally agree Tim, although posting is expensive to 400 plus members. We should start canvassing around October and utilizing the email system.
I was criticised when I put a poster up in The Rat advertising the voting meeting a few years ago.
As for rallying support, certain pubs have in the past attempted to do this. I certainly did but it never worked.
The best way to rally support is by providing a good pub with good beer and friendly people.
There should also be an "alternative vote" system which would give more credence to the overall winner. The top 3 should be in a second vote.
Well worth the debate and thanks for bringing it up.

Dave Pattern said...

I'm sure I'm not the only member who's a web developer, but I'd be more than happy to help knock togther something that could handle email and/or web based voting.

Like others, I'm not able to attend meetings, but would be more than happy to help out.

Dave (d.c.pattern [at]

ChrisM said...

I agree Tim. I've heard this argument time and time again from branches all over the country. In Tyneside and Northumberland we post a voting form out to ALL 900 odd branch members each year to vote. Of course we very rarely get that many back - this year we had just 100 responses.