A tearful Rehan Siddiqui is flanked by chief executive Dave Turnbull as his resignation is announced. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The chair of the British Mountaineering Council has resigned, despite defeating a vote of no confidence in his executive.

Rehan Siddiqui stunned members attending the organisation’s packed annual meeting by announcing he was quitting his post, moments after declaring a motion of no confidence had been overwhelmingly outvoted.

An emotional Mr Siddiqui was in tears at the end of the packed meeting in Snowdonia and it was left to his partner Louise Price to take to the platform to deliver his pre-prepared speech, to shouts of ‘no’ from the floor when his decision to step down was announced.

The motion of no-confidence in the BMC’s executive committee, brought by former president Bob Pettigrew, patron Doug Scott and more than 20 voting members of the organisation, attracted 359 votes in favour, with 2,100 against. 62 people abstained. The figures include those who voted in the meeting at Plas y Brenin, along with proxy votes from members not attending.

The motion accused the executive committee that Mr Siddiqui chairs of ‘wilful and deliberate withholding of future policy decisions’ from the members who attended last year’s annual meeting in the Peak District.

In his statement, Mr Siddiqui said the motion was effectively ‘an attempted coup’ by those who wanted to impose their views on the dislike of the Olympics, which will include competition climbing in 2020, the International Federation of Sport Climbing, promotion and attracting hillwalkers and an obscure issue over a toilet block at Harrison’s Rocks in East Sussex.

The aborted attempt to change the BMC’s branding to Climb Britain was also high on the motion’s movers’ complaints.

Members at the annual meeting gave Mr Siddiqui a standing ovation after he made his announcement. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Members at the annual meeting gave Mr Siddiqui a standing ovation after he made his announcement. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mr Siddiqui revealed, however, he had been against the change of name. “The BMC admitted that the Sport England-funded rebrand was a mistake and following widespread membership disapproval, the BMC reacted quickly to rectify this.

“I feel it is now appropriate to inform you that I personally was against the rebrand in executive committee discussions. When the majority decision was reached to go ahead with the rebranding, as president of the BMC, I felt duty bound to publicly support the democratic decision of the executive committee in mid-May and also that of national council in mid-June 2016.

“Following the widespread disapproval of the rebrand I and other voluntary directors and the [chief executive Dave Turnbull] personally spent significant time touring the country to attend BMC area meetings, club meetings and meet with individuals in the consultation process which in hindsight should have happened before the rebrand.

“I have endured unjustified and highly personal attacks over the issue since.”

Mr Siddiqui said, after successfully leading the BMC through the biggest challenge to its existence in its entire history, he decided the time was right to stand down as president.

“The last few months in particular have been very difficult and I have been frustrated that the motion of no confidence has meant that energy and focus of both volunteers and staff has been directed away from the many positive areas which members benefit.

“I have a business to run and a young family to provide for and cannot reasonably make such a huge sacrifice anymore. I have immense pride in the BMC and utmost respect for the excellent and hard-working fellow executives and BMC staff that I have had the pleasure of working with.

“I will not leave the organisation leaderless and will stay on in the role until a new president or acting president can be appointed.”

Mr Siddiqui received a standing ovation from most of the 170 or so members at the gathering at Capel Curig.

Bob Pettigrew addresses the meeting. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Bob Pettigrew addresses the meeting. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Bob Pettigrew said after the meeting that he did not regret tabling the motion of no confidence. “I’m unrepentant,” he said. “I expected to be pretty heavily defeated. They didn’t give me the opportunity to put my side when Summit [the BMC’s quarterly membership magazine] was published with this hysterical call to ‘save our BMC’.

“How much that was out of control because people felt so emotional about it, I really can’t say and I wouldn’t want to press anything, because it has happened and I feel now the message has gone to the heart of the present establishment that any major policy issues and strategies will in future be reported well in advance to AGMs which is the ultimate authority, even if it’s an outline, to give people the opportunity to make enquiries before it’s a fait accompli.

“There were calls for me to withdraw the motion. At one time, even Doug Scott was wavering slightly but I think he was mistaken because a lot of people who felt very strongly, like the chaps from Devon, travelled to support the idea of letting the hierarchy know that they would not permit this situation ever to arise in the future.

“I do think that’s a positive effect.”

The AGM also voted in favour of increasing members’ subscriptions by £2.50 a year for individual members and £1 for club, under-18, student and unwaged members. 1,664 voted in favour; 520 against; and 322 abstained.

Full details of the BMC’s annual meeting are in our full-length report.

  • Bob Smith is a member of the BMC

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