This has been an interesting week to be a member of the National Clarion Cycling Club along with one of the regional sections, Fenland in my case.
The club had a motion submitted to conference to remove references to the socialist wording and useage of that word. A word that has historically underpinned the movement.
I joined Fenland in 1991 and (subject to a few spells away whilst living elsewhere in the country) have mainly ridden for them ever since.
The leanings towards the political ideaology of the clubs ‘Fellowship is life’ slogan has only come up periodically in my experiences and not to any sort of level that might make me feel like I am part of some influential party vying to run the country.
I have been aware of the history of the club. I know it is named after a newspaper and has strong ties to the suffragettes and the founder of the Labour Party.
I was vaguely aware of the clubs alliances with the Catalan people, but all of this seemed a long time ago and not especially relevant to myself and cycling in the 2000s.
Cycling is a sport and hobby for me, not a window into a world of party politics and of looking to insert my influence on others.
The motion went through unopposed so it would appear that in the main the membership were also a bit ambivalent to the modern day interpretation of the clubs mission statement in the same way I was. But not all.
There was already a “breakaway” movement down in London who started afresh (also under the Natoinal Clarion name) a while back and actually dialled up the political language and socialist values as part of their pitch for members. It looks like further defections could be on the cards with members who feel that the updating of the National Clarions statements to reflect newer more apolitical values is a step too far.
It’s a really interesting debate, but also one where friends have turned on friends and a lot of bad blood is being spilled. This has been mainly on Facebook.
For what it’s worth, I was content with the way the club presented its origins and history. Whilst not a hardcore socialist in any way, I am delighted that my cycling club has a story, and had been influential in society over the years of its history.
I think that history should most definitely be protected and valued.
However, society feels like it has never been more mistrusting of any sort of political influence and I would never want anyone to miss out of joining Fenland Clarion if they felt they couldn’t based on how they might vote in an election.
I hope all sides can see sense and work for the future of the organisation, using a mix of the modern and historical to ensure that the Clarion is seen as historically rich but progressive and forward looking.
Over to the committee…