It was a long, but satisfying day. We set off from Cudworth at 6:30am to collect two other local Barnsley members, PG from Great Houghton and EG from Wombwell. The OH got us to the Dodworth junction of the MI in plenty of time for the coach pick up at 7:25am. Thanks to Wakefield branch of CAMRA for organising the coach, they also collected some Leeds and Dewsbury members before us, about 20 of us on the bus in all.
|A bus full of CAMRA members on the way to the Mass Lobby (thanks to Wakefield CAMRA for this photo)|
The rest of our group had to check in with the CAMRA organisers and receive our briefing notes, identification badge and instructions on where to go next. Tea and biscuits were available, but no beer yet!
We had booked a meeting with the Barnsley East MP, Michael Dugher at 2pm so we had a little while to wait. The time flew by, however, with lots of people we knew from the Great British Beer Festival and other CAMRA activities in the hall to greet enthusiastically (and usually hug). You make a lot of good friends in CAMRA, the sort where it doesn't matter if you only see them once or twice a year, it's as if you had just been speaking to them, and of course these days many of us do keep in touch through Facebook - it's not just for young people!
We were recommended to set out for for Parliament with a good hour to spare before our meeting, because of security and queueing time. There was a trail of yellow clad CAMRA stewards between the Emmanuel Centre and the Houses of Parliament, so no chance of getting lost, and we passed Ed Balls MP and Greg Mulholland MP walking in the other direction.
|CAMRA stewards outside the Houses of Parliament (from Flickr)|
The OH was in close phone communication with Michael Dugher's PA, a young man called Josh, who met us in the Central Lobby. This is where anyone can come to request a meeting with their MP by filling in a green card. A fellow CAMRA member from Sheffield, DW, hadn't been able to pre-arrange a meeting with his MP Nick Clegg, but he attended and filled out a green card just to make the point. He waited in the Central Lobby for hours, and not in vain, because although Mr Clegg wasn't able to see him on the day he has promised DW a meeting in the New Year to discuss the Beer Tax Escalator.
Michael Dugher collected us from Josh and took us to the Labour Chief Whip's office which he had 'borrowed' to have his meeting with us. He chatted with us for over half an hour and promised to encourage the government to review the Beer Tax Escalator. You can see his notes on our meeting at his website (you need to scroll down or search for the item "Michael meets with Barnsley CAMRA members taking part in lobby of Parliament"). He was also keen on the community role of pubs, maintaining jobs in pubs and the brewery industry and the place of pubs in educating people in responsible drinking. Rosie Winterton, the Chief Whip, arrived just as we were leaving, she'd been meeting with some of her CAMRA constituents from Doncaster, who had left her a copy of their Donny Drinker magazine.
Michael then took us to the famous 'Stranger's Bar' for a real ale. He has recommended Acorn Brewery's Yorkshire Pride beer to the bar, but apparently there is a long waiting list, so we had some North Riding Bitter.
|The Stranger's Bar in the Houses of Parliament|
|Michael Dugher MP and 4 Barnsley CAMRA members on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament|
On the way back through the building towards the exit I was tempted by the 'little shop', it had fridge magnets and pencils and all the usual gifty tut, but the OH helped me resist. He went to collect his lock pick and then we made our way back to the Emmanuel Centre. In return for our filled in feedback forms we were given a free pint of beer each. Once everyone had made it back from the Houses of Parliament there were speeches from the Chairman of CAMRA, Colin Valentine, Mike Benner CEO of CAMRA, several MPs including Greg Mulholland and Andrew Griffiths and a representative from brewers and one from publicans.
|Colin Valentine - Chair of CAMRA|
We boarded our coach just after 6pm for the trip back to Yorkshire. It was 11pm by the time we reached the Dodworth Junction and I was very glad to see the car was still where we left it! The OH had been careful with the beer he had drunk as he had to drive PG and EG home before getting us back to Cudworth at about 11:45pm.
Whilst having supper we scanned through the day's TV on BBC iplayer and found a segment on the Daily Politics programme with Mike Benner speaking outside Parliament backed by the pub signs we had seen on the stage at the Emmanuel Centre.
And then to bed ... needless to say we got up late this morning!