One of the jibe’s levelled at Blair years ago was that he was the best leader the Tories never had. I took it to mean that Blair was showing the kind of pragmatism which used to be the hallmark of the old one nation Conservative Prime Ministers. That and he did rather shamelessly steal an awful lot of Tory ideas.
I mention this because Peter Mandelson has shown those New Labour colours again today, by signalling his intention to part-privatise the Royal Mail. This is off the back of Mandelson’s supposed preference for key employment rights to be shelved “apparently” to help businesses through the recession. His defence for this part-privatisation is because there has been a shortfall of £5 billion, according to the BBC, in the pension fund. This is a hole which apparently would be filled by private money. Yeah right. What will happen if this goes ahead is that the new Royal Mail management would insist on smaller benefits for those due to retire.
I am somewhat staggered at the distinct lack of questions asked of the Royal Mail management, these people are earning millionare wages, and for what? Adam Crozier, the Chief Executive supposedly earns £4 million a year, while his chairman Alan Leighton is reputedly on £2.5 million a year. Crozier in a previous life couldn’t run the FA properly, his failure in the developing power struggle with the English Premier League cost him his job. Leighton on the other hand couldn’t run a football club, he has to take some of the blame for where Leeds United find themselves now. These two have overseen spiralling debts and two hatchet jobs on the post office counter service network, whilst helping themselves to £39 million in wages since 2002.
I am wary about the reasons for this, it seems like an awful coincidence that this has happened less than 6 months after the last of the Post Office closures (in Scotland), and less than 3 months after the scrapping of the Post Office watchdog, Postwatch. Postcomm’s own recommendation to (fully) privatise the Royal Mail wasn’t exactly dismissed not that long ago. This feels like something of a stated aim for New Labour, going back to their decision in 2002 to appoint these clowns, with the aim to make Post Office Ltd profitable, regardless of quality of service.
Once again, our government has decided to break up a part of the glue which binds our communities together. With the Royal Mail part of the Post Office set to be sold, Mandleson has made a mistake, one which for many may well be the final straw for New Labour.