Yet again the festive season has landed so I wish you all a very merry Christmas and, of course, a prosperous New Year-but what of the New Year? What has happened in the year nearly gone to give us hope for 2011?

We’ve seen more and more pubs shut as more and more licensees lose their home and their livelihoods.

We’ve seen the sublime turn into the ridiculous, resulting in the imprisonment of a licensee unable to pay what the court demanded simply because ‘the system’ had forced him onto jobseeker’s Allowance.

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We’ve also seen the power of the internet as £10,000 was raised in a matter of days to secure that licensees release. It also, embarrassingly, showed that ASH received only 50% of that amount in a year from public donations-perhaps they can now look forward to the new self-styled anti-smoking guru donating a fiver or two! C’mon Bannatyne, dig deep for your new baby, after all you’re not leaving a penny to your kids if they dare to smoke!

‘Climate gate’ has come and gone; mainly gone, as it transpires that lots of dodgy emails were exchanged between meteorological centres in Essex & America. It seems that the establishment considered the British people a ‘walkover’ after the supposed success of the smoke ban so it was decided that the fore-runner to hundreds of ‘green taxes’ should be rolled out for general acceptance by the public. They did not accept!

ASH continued to bang out the bilge but have so far failed to answer the question why 49% of lung transplants came from smokers!

Heart attack figures (post ban) continued to be spewed out of the medical ‘word factory’ and after the total embarrassment of the Pell Study it must have really galled the medical profession when Michael Siegel (anti-tobacco), a scientist of integrity, ‘flat-packed’ the English heart attack study as rubbish.

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In February we had Andy Burnham (Labour) calling vociferously for even stricter anti-smoking legislation-he now sits on the opposition benches in parliament!  The month also saw the sad demise of ‘The Family Tree’ public House in Bognor Regis, the tenants treated like criminals by Punch Taverns.

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We also had the inauguration of the “3rd hand smoke” scam as the idiot Jonathan Winickoff burst onto the anti-smoking bandwagon with a telephone poll of some 1,356 fools who had to answer extremely loaded questions. However, yet again, the world’s media seized upon this with a new frenzy.

Our colleague and member Christopher Snowdon absolutely ripped the study to bits and I had the pleasure of Winickoff cutting off our phone conversation in mid flow!

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March saw “YouGov” issue a survey asking for answers purely on smoking matters-very strange. Not long after that ASH declared a survey supported the fact that 80% of the population wanted further restrictions-we can only assume that at least 5% of smokers wanted to be more restricted themselves!

The early summer months saw both Punch Taverns & Enterprise Inns in dire trouble as debts continued to mount-both were more than £3bn in debt. But, what they proved to all and sundry is that recessions and ‘Ponzi scheme’ built businesses cannot be harmonious. Noticeable here, that Giles Thorley decamped from Punch Taverns – ‘to move onto other areas’. Nice bail out by Giles from a severely sinking ship that he had definitely helped to sink! Both companies share prices had now dropped below the £1 mark-oh how to kill a thriving business and piss the shareholders off big-time!

August saw f2c represented, in London, at the ‘Pub Week’ official launch. An amusing day really with many of the ‘top dogs’ strutting their stuff and brown-nosing where necessary, but, important contacts were made that day!

We also saw a complete overhaul of the f2c shop which now boasts connections to major online stores, all of whom send f2c a commission on sales through our link. Please don’t hesitate to browse the stores available if you need any household goods etc, or days out at theme parks! Our thanks go to Paul Kearns for all the work he has put into this project get using it and generate some much needed funds for f2c:- (Freedom2Choose Shop no Longer Operational).

September saw a meeting between f2c and Conservative MPs in Northampton. More than 30 people turned up which was encouraging and it showed that we do have a growing support within the Conservative Party. It was very unfortunate that Brian Binley was on holiday that particular week as it was he who tabled EDM406, concerning the smoke ban legislation. A later meeting with Brian was destroyed by inclement weather.

The AGM (f2c) was a disappointing affair as firstly “Rui’s Bar” had been forced to close a month earlier due to diminishing customers (how many times have we heard that one?)

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I can now reveal that in using the upstairs bar for meetings, they were proper meetings: wink, wink. Another venue was quickly found but sadly only eleven members turned up.

November saw more and more information coming out against the anti-tobacco brigade though they were now banging the drum and using the children to do it. Smoking in cars with children, smoking in houses with children, blah blah. They are running out of things to use so the children seem the best option. Redbridge Council had already decided that smokers were not fit for purpose as adoptive parents-no doubt they have plenty of non-smokers queuing up for such positions? Funny… I don’t remember them queuing up to fill the pubs in July of 2007 despite all the promises!

November also saw the release of the ‘new style’ f2c newsletter and we forward our thanks to ‘Aqua’ & ‘B7’ for their tremendous efforts on this project

The cries of the anti-smokers were becoming ever more ridiculous as the year sailed by which, to my mind, shows that are clawing back valuable ground. David Nuttall proved this when tabling his “Ten Minute Rule Motion”, which though defeated realised over 80 votes in favour of the smoke ban being amended/reformed. It was noticeable that heavyweights were brought in to oppose Nuttall’s motion.

However, all these things was merely a prelude to the jackpot that was waiting around the corner. The Dutch bar owners had been battling away in the courts for some time as they railed against their particular ban. They got the judgement they sought, insomuch that small bar owners (70sq mtrs or less) could allow smoking again as the ban had wreaked a catastrophic effect on those small bars.

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Obviously, the Dutch legal system has not been warped by the smoke ban legislation, as ours has, because I doubt licensees here getting the same judgement even though the ban definitely infringes property rights/business rights. The remarkable thing about the stupendous Dutch effort is that 1,200 bar owners got together and donated £250 each, per annum to the fighting fund-and won. We had 65,000 pubs in this country pre- ban, now we are less than 60,000 and had every pub donated a ‘tenner’ (£10) we would have had the where-with-all to mount a much needed Judicial Review of this evil legislation.

That does not mean that f2c have been idle whilst the Dutch have toiled. We have compiled two (2) major surveys this year; those being the Under 25’s survey (which threw up some remarkable results) and the licensees survey (which totally obliterated ASH’s fraudulent claims). Both surveys took a tremendous effort from f2c members (& friends) and I thank them all for their endeavours. Thanks also go to Tony W for his formulating skills and presentations. Both surveys were authenticated by Dr Ruth Cherrington, who also spoke at the Northampton meeting. Her knowledge and expertise in the cultural side of smoke bans is invaluable.

Shortly before Christmas we received the news we had all been waiting for-the Dutch ban had been overturned (in part) as described above. That is the greatest tonic we could have wished for as Wiel Maessen, who headed the Dutch charge, was suddenly invited onto numerous radio interviews.

After nearly 4 years of anti-smoking propaganda the BBC actually asked if our smoking ban should be reformed to give choice. We owe the Dutch a great debt for they have shown that diligence does pay off and that politicians do actually listen. Wiel said that reading a book called “Tipping Point” was the turning point; the trigger. It is available at: (Link no Longer Available).

The Dutch decision is certain to cause much controversy this side of the water but that is to our advantage for the Dutch have shown that businesses do matter, personal freedoms do matter and that smoking bans seriously harm economies.

I suppose there are many other matters I could mention but I won’t bore you all over this festive period. What I will say though is thank you to all members for their industry over this past year. F2c is not just the exec deciding this, that and the other; f2c is a collection of souls dedicated to the destruction of this spiteful and unjust ban that is destroying our pubs & clubs. Each of you should pat yourselves on the back for you all do a sterling job in your own ways, whether it be blogging, posting newspaper reports, e-mailing people, actually writing letters or standing out in the freezing cold completing surveys.

We should take heart from this past year for it is obvious now that the cracks are getting wider and wider, the evidence is coming our way and the likes of ASH will soon be severely on the back foot, for their claims are becoming more and more outlandish. Keep faith, the Dutch have broken the mould and we will soon be following.

As you are aware this year also saw the unity of f2c with Justice for Licensees, led by the inimitable Inez Ward. Inez is no one’s fool and clearly sees exactly what is wrong with the hospitality sector, ever more so since 1st July, 2007. Together we present a formidable force, for JFL have encyclopaedic knowledge of the industry as we have our particular point of interest, thus, when we do finally meet with government Ministers to discuss the ways forward we will not be short on strength and depth-they might be though! Whilst on the subject of JFL please spend a few minutes making a small but valuable contribution toward their goals and sign the petition (Link provided).

Full Market Study of the Pub Sector Petition

Together we will win-divided we will all fail

Have a very happy Christmas and we will prosper in the New Year.