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"About the Constitution"

At the last AGM, Mike Wheadon submitted various changes to the Club Constitution for consideration by the 1980 Committee.  Kangy King, a member of the Sub Committee that formulated the present constitution writes…

I apologise in advance for the following screed which I hope will be taken as practical politics, intended to help the Club function more easily and not to teach grandmothers how to suck eggs.  It concerns our new constitution which like the last one looks like the sort of document which could usefully be used for almost anything other than reading.  It was the Club's decision to accept this sort of constitution and we should be aware of its limitations.

A "watertight" specification or constitution is a very difficult or even impossible thing to achieve because of the difficulty of putting practices or feelings into words so that there is no ambiguity (or even bad grammar!)  The consequence of this is that there is an almost irresistible temptation to try to perfect it.  This might be a proper reaction but it is, in my view, a waste of valuable drinking time.

Another approach to the difficulty of precision is to not even try, and, instead have a creed which crystallises an attitude or spirit.

"We are the Exploration Club,
We roam around from pub to pub!"

The actions of the Club are reviewed annually by the A.G.M.

The most important part of our Constitution is then that which sets out the conduct of the A.G.M. At each A.G.M. the Club is born again. We can kill it, or change it, or continue it.  We are the club.  The Club is NOT the Constitution.  We should, however, remind ourselves when discussion is heated and factions threaten to tear us apart, of the Spirit of the Club.  Why are we a club?  We are a club because we have members with similar interests or objectives combining together.  Set out the interests or objectives and then state what a reasonable man would require for a valid A.G.M.  Ideally this would be every member of the Club meeting together but as this is not practical then the constitution tells you what is.  Decisions are made by the Club acting together at the A.G.M.

A practical way of organising the day-to-day business of the Club is to elect some of our fellows to do it for us in Committee.  If we don't like what they are doing we can call an Emergency General Meeting and sort it out or wait until the A.G.M. and kick them out!

A good example of what is meant by the Spirit of the Club came when a draft constitution was (very correctly) being given the hatchet treatment by the AGM.  Now hatchet jobs are performed on completed piece of work to make it fit.  Regardless of the somewhat disfigured final appearance the important thing is that it now fits.  In this case logic dictated that the lower age for membership should be 18 years for some very sound reasons.  The feeling of the club was tested by proposing that there should be no lower age limit.  This was firmly rejected.  We felt there should be a lower limit but lower than 18 years and we voted to accept the risks involved in having 16 year old members as we had always done.  This was the Spirit of the Club.  To hell with insurance, we want young people in our Club!

As a club we are confused about a number of things.  We like being The Exploration Club and sometimes this means caving but we are not sure whether we mean as a sport or a science.  We don’t Mountaineer but we do Rock Climb and Hill Walk (whether scientifically or not is not stated!) and we have 'like pursuits' and this apparently can include PU’s both scientifically or otherwise.  But we know what we mean.  We can recognise our sort of bod easily.

We are confused about 'Probationary Members'.  We should think carefully about them.  Do we need them?  Should they vote?  Can they serve on the Committee?  Does this matter?  How does the Constitution Guide us here?  It doesn't; but the Spirit of the Club does.  If the Probationary Member wants to be of use - let him.  If he's useless don't let him.  How do you put that succinctly into words?

The Committee is the Club or it is until we can get at it and box its ears at the AGM.  It is an elected body and normally knows that is going on.  It should be quite capable of resolving a difficult decision by feeling for the Spirit or best interests of the Club.  This isn't new.  We hang together as a Nation by considering what a "reasonable" man would do and not by fear of getting our feet wet.  Boundaries or Rules don't make a group, Spirit does.  It cannot do this if the Constitution is precise but out of date. We have nothing to fear from a woolly or imprecise Constitution.  The Club can take care of that at the next AGM.

We might well consider when we compare the regulations governing the conduct of the AGM (which is fundamental to the survival of the Club) with those concerning the Committee whether we have our priorities right.  Do we really need so many rules to regulate our Committee?  On the other hand the Committee has a traditional method of working and it may be as well to enshrine this in the Constitution.

The Club feels it needs a Constitution.  I feel that we need one only in order to say "this is what we do if we think we should."

We can live with an imprecise, woolly, and eccentric Constitution because our first priority is to have a large and vigorous AGM with enough time to thrash things out under a find and respected Chairman.

I think we have always managed rather well in this respect and it is up to us to continue to have a lively AGM which asks a confident set of bods to act for us.