[r-t] CRAG, the Methods Committee and the Decisions

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Thu Apr 27 23:01:06 UTC 2017

As it is now Friday, CRAG's proposals are now public.  They 
can be found on pp 425-8 of The Ringing World's CC 


Two of the proposals will be of particular interest here. 
First is Proposal (C) to replace the fifteen or so current 
committees (and a further four groups of Stewards) with 
fewer than ten workgroups.  The CRAG proposals don't say 
what they're going to me; the new Executive they propose to 
set up is given until November to do this, and the 12 
activty areas identified in CRAG's second communiqué (RW 
2016, pp 1010–11) will doubtless inform this process.

In particular, CRAG had the following two activies:

   *Standards*  Consulting on and recommending technical
   standards in ringing, maintaining records as necessary to
   uphold these standards.

   *Innovation*  Encouraging research and innovation in the
   advancement of ringing: its methodologies, tools, and

The former effectively covers the present day remit of the 
Methods, Compositions and Peal Records Committees, and I 
expect to see them be merged; the latter activity is 
something wholly new to the Central Council, and it will be 
interesting to see what, if anything, the new Executive does 
in regard to that activity.

Assuming CRAG's proposals are adopted, the change from 
committees to a small number of workgroups will presumably 
happen in May 2018 when new rules are adopted to bring the 
new governance structures into effect, so a Methods 
Committee will exist for one more year.

Critically, the new workgroups are not elected from and by 
the Council (which is to become know as the Council of 
Representatives); instead the Executive appoints a Workgroup 
Leader, who, in consultation with the Executive, appoints 
workgroup members.  A strong Executive with power to act 
independently is an integral part of CRAG's proposal, and it 
means workgroups will be working in a common direction.  If 
the Executive support reform, the Council of Representative 
will no longer be able to vote reactionaries on to 
workgroups in attempt to emasculate them, as seems set to 
happen again next month.  The converse is also true, but I 
don't see a reactionary Executive as an immediate threat and 
concentrating power there seems the lesser of all evils.

CRAG also propose limiting terms of office to two three-year 
terms.  So no more Ayatollahs serving as committee chair for 
20+ years and turning it into a personal fiefdom.

The other notable proposal is Proposal (H) which cuts 
straight to the heart of the current Decisions debate. 
"The Decisions of the Central Council will be replaced with 
a simple and permissive descriptive framework for ringing 
with only the minimal detail required to maintain the 
historical record."  This is a clear and unambiguous 
statement of support for a framework along the lines of Tim 
Barnes' framework.  CRAG calls for replacement, not 
incremental tinkering; and the use of the adjectives 
"simple", "permissive", "descriptive" and "minimal" speaks 

That this proposal is still needed three years after John 
Couperthwaite proposed that the Methods Committee should 
develop a "new or revised set of Decisions concerning Peal 
Ringing, Methods and Calls" (RW 2014, p 660) is a perfect 
example of the lack of accountability and failure to follow 
through that CRAG identify as a major failing in the present 
Central Council (finding (L), RW, p 425).  This perhaps 
explains why CRAG go on to propose that the job be removed 
from the Methods Committee.

   The Executive will appoint a neutral and respected ringer
   who is demonstrably independent of those responsible for
   the current Decisions to complete this work.  The leader may
   assemble a group of ringers to assist with this task and
   will consult widely on their proposals before presenting
   them to the Council in May 2018.

It seems to me that Tim Barnes is unquestionably the man for 
this job, and I very much hope the new Executive appoint him 
to lead this work; I'm hopeful they will, as the remit seems 
almost written with him in mind.

I have argued before (e.g. RW 2015, p 326) that the Method 
Committee's seeming unwillingness to embrace change is 
bringing the Central Council into disrepute by focusing 
debate on Decisions that 95% of ringers cannot understand 
but that the demonstrably wrongheaded to the remaining 5%. 
Proposal (H), little short of a vote of no confidence in the 
Methods Committee, seems to back this up.  I just hope that 
in proposing this, Phil Barnes hasn't fallen out with his 

I very much hope the Central Council meeting in Edinburgh 
will vote to accept CRAG's proposals.  If they do not, I 
think this is the beginning of the end of the Central 
Council; if they do, perhaps it can be a new beginning.  In 
four-and-a-half weeks we'll know.  If they do pass, this 
will leave the Methods Committee with a "lame duck" year; 
their only plan for 2017/18 was "to build a new, more 
descriptive, decision framework" (RW, p 441), but under 
CRAG's Proposal (H) it will be removed from them.  If it 
passes, Tim and Graham may want to consider whether to 
withdraw their nominations to the Methods Committee.  As 
CRAG's proposals will be dealt with under adgenda item 14, 
and committee elections are item 15, this is possible.

CRAG's intention to have a smaller number of workgroups 
means that Motion (F) to extend the terms of the Methods 
Committee's remit will become moot if CRAG's proposals are 
adopted.  But perhaps they indicate what the Methods 
Committee should spend 2017/18 doing if not reforming the 
Decisions.  The proposed terms include "to compile and 
maintain a library of all named methods with classification 
and appropriate references, and to maintain a record of 
historic method names" (RW, p 412).  According to their 
committee report (RW, p 441), "These new Terms of Reference 
are based on what the Committee currently does, but also 
includes some additional things that we feel it should do in 
the future".  Presumably maintaining a methods library is 
the latter as it is currently done by Tony Smith, seemingly 
with little control or oversight by the Methods Committee.

We can all guess what Tony Smith's opinion will be of CRAG's 
Proposal (H).  Given the events of 2015 when the method 
libraries were seemingly held hostage in an astonishing and 
childish fit of pique over some imagined future censure of 
the Methods Committee, now is the right time for the Methods 
Committee to take control of the method libraries.  If 
reform of the Decisions is taken from you, make that your 
aim for the next year and go out on a high having 
accomplished something useful.


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