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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: March 2011
    s newspapers are unsurprisingly filled with moral indignation at yesterday s scenes The Telegraph describes mobs of masked thugs and Scotland Yard Commander Bob Broadhurst is widely quoted condemning mindless yobbery But this lacks balance and misrepresents the perpetrators The targeted acts of disruption and property damage were carried out and cheered on by large numbers of predominantly young people who appear to be both politically engaged and intelligent However you judge their actions bear in mind first that they are responding in such a way because they feel detached alienated and disenfranchised from a society and a political system that to them appears unjust unequal broken and hopeless When the police attack protesters it only reinforces this sense of isolation and injustice For every baton charge for every shield across the face the anger deepens What I observed on the streets of London yesterday reaffirms a belief I have held since I witnessed similar scenes in Edinburgh during the G8 protests six years ago that there is simply not enough independent scrutiny of police tactics and the mainstream media are far too quick to uncritically adopt the perspective of the authorities In the months ahead there will no doubt be more unrest on the streets of London The anger is yet to peak youth unemployment is at its highest ever recorded level and the cuts are still to fully bite Unless the police are subject to the same criticism and scrutiny as are the protesters next time there is a similar protest more windows will be broken and the police will continue to issue out indiscriminate beatings down dark side streets when they think no one is watching This is something that should give us all cause for concern We must remember after all that it is the role of the police in any democratic society to serve not to subjugate This article appeared originally at http www opendemocracy net ourkingdom ryan gallagher baton charged by police on frontline with black bloc Posted by Ryan Gallagher at 20 00 Labels Anarchists Black Bloc Bob Broadhurst Cuts Daily Telegraph London Mainstream Media Police Police tactics protests Obama s broken promises Thursday 24 March 2011 Earlier this month American president Barack Obama openly reneged on two important issues First came the announcement that legal trials at US prison camp Guantanamo Bay would recommence And then just a few days later followed Obama s statement that the widely condemned treatment of Bradley Manning the soldier accused of leaking classified files to WikiLeaks was appropriate and meeting our basic standards On his rise to power in 2008 Obama spoke out against the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and vowed to close the prison Within hours of becoming president he put a halt to the now resumed legal trials taking place at the camp during which the US military acts as both judge and jury He also pledged to protect government whistleblowers and spoke passionately about the need for a common humanity and a new era of peace in his inauguration speech Obama s transformation since then has been remarkable Through the course his two year tenure so far five suspected government whistleblowers have been charged on suspicion of leaking classified information more than under the respective terms of republican presidents Reagan Nixon and both George Bushes combined Before Obama came to power the US government had only filed similar charges on three occasions in 40 years Aside from declaring what Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg has described as a war on whistleblowers Obama has also escalated military action in Afghanistan and sanctioned clandestine bombings in Pakistan and Yemen And while Guantanamo remains open and its trials get back underway his government continues to allow extraordinary rendition a practice again condemned by Obama prior to his election that involves the secret CIA abduction of terror suspects who are transferred to prisons in countries with questionable human rights records Part of Obama s massive original appeal in 2008 was that he appeared to be a man of liberal principle In his book Dreams of My Father he portrayed his younger self as a pot smoking humble intellectual who entered into politics from community activism It was natural at the time to want to believe he was different after eight years of war and draconian civil liberties crackdowns under the presidency of George W Bush Obama s talk of hope and change was a welcome tonic But as is now obvious we were gullible and naive to fall blindly for his rhetoric In London recently Hillary Clinton s senior advisor on innovation Alec Ross spoke at the London School of Economics His lecture was in many ways a reflection of the Obama presidency It was stylishly delivered and punctuated with idealism though so devoid of substance it was almost chilling As Ross spoke about the free internet and implementing a change agenda the spirit of Obama lingered in the room When probed by one audience member on the role of his government in Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition the 39 year old looked momentarily bewildered I cannot disembowel my country s history he said I don t always feel great about our past but I feel good about our future Such unwillingness to tackle the ugly realities of American political life has been a defining feature of Obama s two years in office to date Supporters of Obama point to his criticism of China s human rights record and refusal to oppose gay marriage both of which are undeniably commendable But the president needs to do much more There was a sense three years ago that Obama represented a whole new dawn for America and perhaps even the world Today his apparent reluctance to stick to previously advocated principles has left many feeling empty and betrayed Giving his second State of the Union address in January Obama spoke of how America supports the democratic aspirations of all people No amount of grand speeches however can alter

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: February 2011
    nothing new This collection sourced from a range of publications across the web illustrates nothing could be further from the truth Here if there is still a grain of doubt in your mind is just some of what WikiLeaks has told us Read more Posted by Ryan Gallagher at 23 04 Labels Africa America Cablegate Guantanamo Bay Iraq War Julian Assange Pakistan Toxic Waste Truth Wikileaks Yemen Salford Thursday 17 February 2011 There are parts of Salford Greater Manchester that feel like a ghost town Entire streets are lined with dormant boarded up houses old magazines are submerged in puddles by the side of cracked pavements and there are piles of red brick where buildings once stood strong The only sign of life is the occasional stray cat and the dull ceaseless hum of engines roaring on the nearby motorway It was not always like this here Salford was once a thriving hub of the industrial revolution It was home to cotton factories silk weaving mills and a bustling dockyard on the Manchester ship canal Between 1812 and 1900 the city s population increased from just 12 000 to 220 000 as thousands of families came seeking work But with boom eventually there came bust Like so many industrial towns when the factories closed thousands of workers were left unemployed The city was overcrowded and impoverished leaving a legacy of social deprivation that has continued through to present day As a result Salford has been tainted by what one government report labelled an image problem In recent years however Salford Council has taken steps to regenerate and rejuvenate the city During the last decade massive investment more jobs greater economic prosperity improved environment quality and lower crime levels are changing the perception and image of Salford for the better says the Salford Council website More people are now choosing Salford as a place to live work invest visit and study than ever before Private developers have renovated old mills in the area into award winning accommodation and a state of the art Media City is being built on a former industrial wasteland at Salford Quays But behind the glossy veneer of the ongoing regeneration scheme the city remains haunted by a darker narrative An astonishing 1500 of Salford s streets have approximately been demolished in the last 50 years many of which were torn down as part of an ongoing Housing Market Renewal scheme that aims to regenerate areas with low demand for housing In order that these houses could be demolished several residents were forcibly removed from their homes Controversial compulsory purchase orders which give residents no option but to sell their property were issued to those who refused to move We see casualties of this regeneration every day says Stephen Kingston editor of the Salford Star an award winning online publication that has spent five years researching the expenditure of public money on Salford s regeneration People are living in derelict streets full of tinned up houses where developers have not shown interest In all this time all we have seen is houses being knocked down developers getting money chucked at them and not a lot of difference in the city s well being By any statistics or analysis Salford is still one of the most deprived areas in the country which says it all really Many of those whose homes were demolished under the redevelopment plans have now been moved to a regeneration zone named New Broughton Residents have complained though that the new houses are not up to the standard of their old homes One survey recently conducted by New Broughton Residents Association NBRA for instance found that 62 now felt they were worse off in their new accommodation Everything about this place was done for outside appearance says Val Broadbent one of the first to move into a New Broughton housing scheme called Supurbia developed by Countryside Properties People passing comment on how nice it looks but living here is a different story Val describes her new neighbourhood as Toytown and says she was happier in her previous home a 22 year old eco friendly property designed by Salford University that has since been demolished by the council I was very happy there with everything I needed says Val Here we have been stripped of everything and given the very basics in housing My old house had a secure driveway with lockable gates Here I have a parking space in a communal car park that was sold to us as secure parking with electronic gate entry and monitored by CCTV The gates never work and are wide open 24 7 and the CCTV never happened According to the NBRA there have been recurring problems with drainage while several residents have reported damp and leakages For the first 15 months after she moved into her Supurbia home Val s kitchen flooded every time it rained eventually forcing her to get her entire kitchen ceiling replaced It s just been a catalogue of errors she says Light fittings in the wrong place so that the light bulbs smashed when you opened the door illegal plug sockets and even light switches missing The aerial fell off the roof and the shower packed up The front gardens are sinking and the paths need constant repair Such problems are not unique to properties in New Broughton A report produced by the Audit Commission in 2009 found that one in three homes across Salford is in poor condition equating to a total of approximately 29 000 In 2001 the New Labour government set a target that all social housing would be decent warm weatherproof and with reasonably modern facilities by 2010 but Salford Council estimates it will be another five years until all of the city s homes are up to this standard Yet even despite the high number of homes in Salford that are considered of poor quality there is an 18 000 long waiting list for social housing in

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: January 2011
    as the young activist kindly reminded me a Labour stronghold The key lesson is perhaps then that by elections should not and cannot be treated like general elections It is problematic to attempt to analyse and predict them in the same way because each constituency is full of its own complexities and idiosyncrasies that to some degree transcend national narratives and it is not always possible to superimpose the one dimensional politics of Westminster onto two dimensional constituencies like Oldham East and Saddleworth There is definitely much more discussion to be had about the by election and careful analysis particularly in relation to tactical voting will no doubt reveal some interesting details Burnham s prediction has already come true in that Tory rightwingers are apparently disgruntled at the party s weak campaigning prior to the by election and are planning to take some action to reassert a more distinctive Tory message But undoubtedly the grumbles made by the old Tories will soon rise and fall slowly but surely destined only to eventually disappear much like the memory of this by election quietly and gently into the footnotes of history This article originally appeared at http www opendemocracy net ourkingdom ryan gallagher oldham by election coalitions first test by ballot box ends in labour vict Posted by Ryan Gallagher at 13 40 Labels BBC Conservative Party Debbie Abrahams Democracy Elwyn Watkins Journalism Kashif Ali Labour Liberal Democrats Media Oldham East and Saddleworth Phil Woolas Oldham by election Thursday 13 January 2011 The soon to be concluded Oldham East and Saddleworth by election has been billed as the first test of the coalition government Since former Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas was removed from the seat in November following a high profile court case over dubious election leaflets candidates have been hot on the campaign trail Labour who are fielding former public health consultant Debbie Abrahams as their candidate are the clear favourites The party have won every election in the constituency since its inception in 1997 but there are those who believe this election will be a closer call than expected It is undoubtedly a two horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems and the Tories will almost certainly be the third place party David Cameron has done little to back the Tory candidate Kashif Ali and has made it fairly obvious he hopes for a Lib Dem victory The key question is then how big a chunk of the vote will the Lib Dems win Some are predicting that Elwyn Walkins the Lib Dem candidate will do poorly as a result of his party s collusion in government with the Tories Others however have suggested that he could still be in with a shot One poll for the Mail on Sunday for instance found that Watkins was the favoured candidate by a very slim margin Significantly according to the latest available census data for the constituency 2001 only 2 7 of those eligible to vote in the area are full time students This could turn out to be a pivotal factor particularly considering the huge unpopularity of the Lib Dems amongst students in light of the tuition fees debacle There has historically been strong support for the Lib Dems in Oldham and Saddleworth but on a number of levels this election is a test case hence the widespread speculation and debate over the outcome The constitency itself is only 14 years old and even pensioners will struggle to recall the last time a Liberal party was in bed with the Conservatives While the proportion of students in Oldham and Saddleworth may be relatively miniscule for traditional Liberal voters too Nick Clegg s perceived subservience to David Cameron and Tory policy may be a step too far One of the few certainties is that despite Phil Woolas being found guilty of publishing lies about an opponent last year in this election Labour as a party will likely remain relatively undamaged by Woolas s wrongdoing This is principally because there is a high proportion of older generation voters particularly in Oldham not so much in Saddleworth that are old Labour working class ex factory workers for whom voting Labour is as much a tradition as is a Sunday roast dinner For many of these people and I know this from having spoken to a decent cross section of them in and around the town Woolas did nothing wrong and Elwyn Watkins was just a sore loser And yet despite the huge controversy surrounding Phil Woolas s election materials last time round this by election has been far from clean fought Labour were accused by the Lib Dems last week of playing dirty again by publishing deliberately misleading information Debbie Abrahams the Lib Dems allege deceived voters by claiming she had lived near Oldham for 25 years when apparently last year she was in fact living closer to Halifax But regardless the allegations against Abrahams are a drop in the ocean compared to those which brought Woolas down Woolas s leaflets not only lost him his seat but got him barred from holding public office for three years and suspended from the Labour party not just because of their racially inflammatory content and the connections they implied between his opponent and violent extremists but because the evidence showed that he knew these allegations were false Woolas the court heard had deliberately tried to make the white folk angry with his materials So this time round and with the major parties steering clear of the race issue it will be interesting to see how the BNP fare in the election It may be that they make some small gains Racial tensions in Oldham are particularly well documented the race riots in 2001 for example and in the past the far right party have received a reasonable portion of the vote In 2001 for instance they came fourth with 11 while Labour won that year with 38 The BNP s candidate for this by

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: December 2010
    the ambition of a nuclear free world we will need statesmanship not brinkmanship This announcement one of the cables reveals caught many in HMG Her Majesty s Government by surprise The Americans were subsequently reassured by high ranking foreign office policy officials seemingly behind Brown s back that there would be no daylight between US and UK nuclear policy HMG has not formally decided to scale back the deterrent but would only do so if a government defense sic review determines the officials stressed However the Trident revelations publicised by the Guardian were not widely covered by the British media who were instead focused intently on the arrest of Julian Assange and the lurid content of the allegations made against him Similarly during the first few days of Cablegate several newspapers particularly the tabloids devoted more coverage to diplomatic name calling than to the major revelations that British officials not only promised to protect US interests during the Iraq inquiry but also made a deal with the US to allow the country to keep cluster bombs in the UK despite the ban on the munitions signed by Gordon Brown This week we also learned that prior to the general election in March Conservative party politicians promised behind the scenes to run a pro American regime and made assurances that if voted into power they would buy more arms from the US While the cables have further revealed as many suspected that prior to the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al Megrahi the UK was under intense pressure from the Libyan government One cable dated 24 October 2008 reads The Libyans have told HMG flat out that there will be enormous repercussions for the UK Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi s early release is not handled properly HMG is also adamant that despite devolution London controls foreign policy for the UK not Edinburgh It is at a time like this when journalism should come in to its own Forget that Vladimir Putin is known in diplomatic circles as alpha dog or Angela Merkel as Teflon there is simply too much at stake here to get distracted by the so called tittle tattle As Henry Porter noted in an excellent piece for the Observer we have been given a snapshot of the world as it is rather than the edited account agreed upon by diverse elites Consequently after having seen a mere 0 5 of the cables so far we already have clear evidence that suggests members of the British political establishment have engaged in at the very least highly undemocratic practice With clarity the cables confirm that unelected officials whose faces and names are unknown to the British public are shaping foreign policy and international relations behind closed doors Not only this but these same officials expect and demand the privilege of secrecy in order to do so This not acceptable in any modern democracy But as the first few ripples of Cablegate reverberate through Whitehall the present coalition

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: November 2010
    for Plakhina and her colleagues at Respublika though For them there remains a sense of anxiety about what will happen when Kazakhstan steps back from the international scrutiny inevitably attached to the chairmanship of the OSCE The newspaper for instance recently received an anonymous email informing them that after the summit they would be closed down once and for all After the summit you will hear about a lot of bad things going on in Kazakhstan Plakhina says We won t any longer have to hide our human rights violations things are going to take a turn for the worse We are trying to increase awareness in European countries about what is going to happen but there is not much hope As long as Nazarbayev is president nothing is going to change This article appeared originally at http www opendemocracy net od russia ryan gallagher decapitated dogs and burning bureaus year kazakhstan did democracy Posted by Ryan Gallagher at 17 30 Labels Communism Foreign Office Journalism Kazakhstan Nick Clegg Nursultan Nazarbayev openDemocracy OSCE summit Post Soviet press freedom Respublika USSR Psychic TV Sunday 7 November 2010 At just after 1am on a Saturday morning an emotional woman picks up her phone and dials a premium rate phone number Moments later she is connected to a live television psychic to whom she tearfully explains her predicament Her partner has just left her she says and he told her he is never coming back The psychic pauses for a brief second takes a deep breath and unleashes a stream of spiritual wisdom There s going to be a time and space where you won t get communication he tells the woman but I ve got to say to you he does come back The example is just one of many that could be culled from an evening watching Psychic TV a popular interactive television programme available on both SKY and Freeview The show which claims to have just under 30m viewers operates under the discreet disclaimer that it is for entertainment purposes only rendering it legitimate under Ofcom s recently revised Broadcasting Code But to spend a few hours glued to Psychic TV late on any given Friday night is to confirm not only that Ofcom s rules are lax they are also being heavily flouted At a cost of 1 50 per minute viewers are offered the truth from natural born psychic mediums who claim they can communicate with animals talk to the dead and even detail past lives The trouble is it s all absolutely serious The psychics are keen to present themselves as authentic offering callers validation that they are bona fide the best psychics in Britain genuinely in touch with the spirit world Our job is to prove to you beyond all doubt without making it fit that what we are doing is real one psychic named Hazel Lee announces We change lives and the next person we help could be you Not one psychic on Psychic TV presents him or herself as a novelty act offering a service solely for the purposes of entertainment In fact the psychics spend much of their time trying to convince the audience of their legitimacy citing a range of credentials as proof Some of them went to the College of Psychic Studies we are told an establishment that says it is a beacon of light and learning for those seeking to explore a consciousness beyond matter while others were apparently visited by spirits as children or had their gift passed down hereditarily Whether it be pinpointing the cause of medical and physical problems or tuning into your animal s deepest thoughts Psychic TV can offer it all But at what cost According to Ofcom while psychic services may give rise to concerns about moral harm no evidence of such harm is known to Ofcom Research commissioned by the regulator even goes as far as to use adjectives like informative uplifting inspiring and insightful to describe Psychic TV Female viewers in particular the research notes often perceive the show as trustworthy and supportive But not everybody would agree During consultations in 2007 for instance The Advertising Standards Authority ASA adopted a far more critical position Psychic reading channels raise significant harm and offence concerns they said The problem is that Ofcom unlike the ASA has been far too willing to overlook the huge moral and ethical questions raised by the existence of Psychic TV shows It is part of their mission they say to protect against sharp practise and prevent misleading advertising Yet their approval of a programme offering life changing truth and advice drawn from spirits at a price of 1 50 per minute suggests they have fallen asleep on duty As a regulatory body serving the public interest Ofcom must therefore reassess whether it is right fair and decent that a for profit business enterprise is given free rein to prey on the emotions fears and anxieties of the lonely lost and vulnerable Read Ofcom s response here This article appeared originally at http www opendemocracy net ourkingdom ryan gallagher psychic tv consciousness beyond matter and ofcom Posted by Ryan Gallagher at 14 45 Labels Advertising Standards Authority Broadcasting Code College of Psychic Studies Ofcom Psychic TV The Woolas Judgement Saturday 6 November 2010 It was during the general election campaign in May that it began a tense political battle that would eventually go down in history for all the wrong reasons Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas versus Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins in a fight to the wire to win the notoriously marginal seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth Woolas of course went on to claim victory in the election by just 103 votes but the real drama was only just about to get started In the aftermath of the election Watkins filed a legal challenge to the result Woolas had breached the Representation of the People Act RPA he said because he had published several false statements about him

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: September 2010
    of the street I see a mother trailed by her three children two boys about eight years old and a girl about six marching like soldiers along the pavement They are all dressed in matching grey and navy school uniforms and the boys look mischievous as if they are plotting an escape the girl in contrast appears passive and obedient as she trots alongside her mother As I approach the main road I notice a woman standing smoking outside a grey concrete box like building Bits of broken glass surround her though she seems oblivious She is holding a mobile phone to her ear with one hand and has a cigarette in the other There is an agitated tone in her hoarse voice and as I pass her an unwelcome blast of pungent perfume rushes with force up my nostrils I feel awake now I cross the main road dodging rush hour traffic and with five minutes to spare arrive at the train station I purchase a ticket from a female attendant and climb the well worn stairs towards the platform A handful of others are mulling around waiting for the train I lean against a wall and close my eyes The morning sun shines on my face and for a few brief seconds I feel as relaxed and content as I ever have At 8 46am a freight train speeds past just as I notice two familiar looking women talking to a man on the far side of the platform They look awake and full of energy I wonder who they are where they are going and where they are from I make eye contact with one of the women but she immediately turns her glance elsewhere Seconds later like clockwork my train arrives on time I board and find a seat next to an overweight middle aged man wearing a black pinstripe suit He is reading a tabloid newspaper chewing gum and has a briefcase clutched between his feet I hope I don t end up like him I think to myself as I concentrate on the sound of the tracks and fall into a daydream about the future The carriage is hot and stuffy but thankfully the journey is only a short one After only fifteen minutes the train stops and everybody shuffles off entering into a clingy blanket of musty city air whilst neurotically avoiding physical contact of any kind with other passengers I step carefully over the gap between the train and the platform and watch the rat race begin People pour from the doors of the train with furious speed charging towards the exit the sound of the station tannoy bounces from the walls like a football and with my senses buzzing I catch bits of conversations taking place all around me The only words I can hear though are those of Jimmy Reid A rat race is for rats a rat race is for rats a rat race is for rats a rat

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: July 2010
    openDemocracy Politics Newer Posts Older Posts Home Search Loading Ryan Gallagher is a compelling new writer who will greatly add to the understanding and conscience of his generation Henry Porter Pages Home About Contact Reports Anonymous tip Notes Subscribe Posts Atom Posts All Comments Atom All Comments Archives 2016 1 January 1 2015 1 March 1 2014 1 September 1 2013 5 August 1 May 1 March 1 February 1

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  • Ryan Gallagher | RJGallagher.co.uk: June 2010
    tied contract with a pubco earn less than 10 000 a year from the business A tied contract is like its name suggests a state of bondage It is a ball and chain around the ankles of pubco leaseholders that forces them to work twice as hard as their free counterparts for not even a fraction of the same reward Seduced by the prospect of affordable entry into the pub trade prospective tenants are lured into signing up with promises of reduced rent However obligated to purchase some or all of the beer sold on their premises at an inflated price from the landlord i e Punch as well as share with them profits from pool tables and fruit machines on top of meeting rent payments the reality is in fact that it is often a struggle to make ends meet for tied tenants The arrangement is almost feudal in character with leaseholders bound to a kind of contractual serfdom Told they are partners but treated like slaves they are subjugated regulated and observed from a distance by their lord and master Every pint they pull is monitored at all times by an electronic device to make sure they don t dare purchase beer from anyone else but the pubco Horror stories told by current and ex pubco leaseholders share the same narrative to the point that reading alternative accounts becomes like a case of déjà vu My niece and myself are Punch Taverns tenants and we have had a tortuous time wrote Graham Brown in a memorandum submitted to the Business and Enterprise Committee Pub Companies are using their purchasing power to increase profits rather than to benefit the tenants Another Punch leaseholder named Val Hogan echoed the same sentiment in a post made on the Times Online website This company has single handedly showcased to me what greed actually means she wrote They take your money your hard work treat you like you are an idiot 45k may not be a lot to them but it sure as hell meant a lot to me it was my house and I lost it Thanks Punch Aware of the severity of the problem the Business and Enterprise Committee now the Business Innovation and Skills Committee BISC began an investigation into pubco practice in 2004 with a follow up report published in 2009 Initially it was conservative in its recommendations stating it was not clear that removing the beer tie would make tenants better off but by 2009 the committee was fairly unequivocal Quoting an FSB poll the 2009 report noted that 94 of respondees wanted an end to the tie It added that the consistency of these themes suggests that something is seriously amiss The committee finally recognised that the beer tie results in a decrease in the lessee s income that is absolute There is now widespread political support for pubco reform Labour the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats as part of their policy proposals announced prior to the

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