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Labour's dilemma over Royal Mail

Nick Robinson | 12:20 UK time, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Why, at a time like this, are ministers picking a fight with many of their own supporters about partially privatising one of the most cherished institutions in the country?

Protesting postal workerThat is the question being asked by many in the Labour Party - not just on the left but also on the right and in the cabinet itself.

On Tuesday morning what's called the "L committee" of the cabinet (the L is for legislation) could not agree on the Parliamentary timetable for the bill which will part-privatise Royal Mail.

Harriet Harman chairs the committee as Leader of the Commons. She told colleagues she needed more time to consider how to proceed.

They claim that only the intervention of the prime minister secured her eventual agreement to publish the bill this week with the intention of it becoming law by the summer.

If Harman has her doubts she is not alone.

The Chief Whip Nick Brown has done his Parliamentary arithmetic and has told the other Mr Brown that, in its current form, this bill can only be won with Tory votes.

Alan Johnson, the former general secretary of the postal workers' union, is said to be no more convinced now than he was when he fought Tory plans to privatise the Royal Mail.

Some Labour MPs believe that he has rediscovered his appetite to lead his party in the event of defeat at the next election.

Some also claim that David Miliband is a sceptic.

Even Blairites, who usually call for more not less reform, are unconvinced. One told me "It's all very well to take on the party when you're on the public's side. But when you're not..." The sentence trailed away.

So, how do ministers answer the question I began with?

They say they've simply no choice.

Left to its own devices, Royal Mail would simply go bust - sunk by the massive deficit in its pension fund.

If taxpayers are to pick up the tab for that they will, it's argued, demand that the company is finally sorted out. .

Only private management with its experience of running postal services abroad have any hope of doing that, ministers go on to insist.

"We'll have the pension bail out but not the privatisation" comes the reply - not just from the traditionally change-resistant postal workers' union but its many allies.

A growing number in the Labour Party cannot understand how their party can one minute nationalise a bank and the next privatise parts of the Royal Mail.

Today, Peter Mandelson has tried to woo those who are not implacably opposed to private sector involvement in the Royal Mail with a pledge that full privatisation (which he once backed) would be ruled out in this bill and also with promises of changes to the competition regime which many complain makes it uncompetitive.

However, those who have never believed in the New Labour holy trinity of markets, profit and privatisation, now think that they have found their cause, their time and a battleground on which they believe they can win.


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  • Comment number 1.

    "Today, Peter Mandelson has tried to woo those who are not implacably opposed to private sector involvement in the Royal Mail..."

    This sentence made me sick. How do I file a complaint?

  • Comment number 2.

    One of the most cherished institutions in the country?

    The only thing cherished about the Royal Mail is the Royal part of it.

    They can't be bothered to deliver to central London streets before 11 in the morning.

    Their drivers are by far and away the most reckless of all the white van man types around; I know of two people injured by their reckless workers - one of them died.

    I know of one person who worked for them and walked off in disgrace at the attitude they took towards a discliplinary matter - taking a parcel home and dropping it off the next day rather than putting it back in the post to arrive a week later.

    These people are a disgrace to the Royal soubriquet and the mismanagement of the pension fund and belief that taxpayers would bail them out is illustrative of their comtemptuous attitude towards the rest of society.

    If ever there was a case for a company being shut down or cut off and obliged to survive on its own this is it.

    Letters are continually dropped in my letter box for houses only two doors away or just around the corner.

    These people are a shower and abuse government cowardice about their role.

    Gt rid of them as soon as possible would be my advice followed by;

    Call an election

  • Comment number 3.

    Labour are doing this now because they know they won't be in government to do it next year...

    Parallels with the dying Tory government's privatisation of the railways, anyone?

  • Comment number 4.

    Its about time someone from within stood up to bully Brown

  • Comment number 5.

    This has been mooted previously but we need to do a little bailing out as has occurred with the banks. I think that part privatisation is a dangerous road to go down and will only lead to full privatisation. The banks have had billions and are still failing. Lets top up the pension fund with some of that seemingly endless change swriling around and look to evaluate the Royal Mail and the way forward.

    After all we shortly have a bit of quantiative easing coming. There'll be plenty more to throw down the drain, why make an exception?

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm completely with Alan Johnson when he says that the idea of him leading the Labour party is laughable. He said he doesn't have the ambition for it so why should the Royal Mail issue make things any different Nick?

    I was trying to work out why I have such a total aversion to Alan Johnson other than the obvious - he looks just like the black market spiv in Dad's Army. And the age of brylcream and bristol cream rather than today's idea of what a political leader looks like.

    And then I remembered. It was 1959 and it was my first day at school. You could still see the remnants of the black out curtains on the edges of the high school windows. My first school lunch found me trying to eat my watery custard while this janitor type in navy blue overalls was standing over the large metal slop pail fishing out bits of meat for his dog or cat or whatever before said slop pail went off to the piggery. This character had a drippy nose and as he pulled bits of meat from the pail, the pail received in return a drop of his nasal fluid. Anyway for what it is worth this guy was the spitting image of Alan Johnson. And whenever I see him it feels like it is 1959 all over again. Perhaps I should see a therapist or perhaps ask the BBC to publish a look away now message whenever footage of Mr Johnson is about to be screened. Of course it might be more to do with the fact that Johnson is the most terrible hypocrite who goes on the BBC spinning the NHS Charter when he has admitted that the basic state eye test is deeply flawed, more British people suffer than you can shake a stick at, and yet he has absolutely no intention of reviewing Government policy. Perhaps it is just that. But I'm not convinced. You know what they say about our earliest memories......

  • Comment number 7.

    There wil be a hidden agenda here. Always is with Labour. Most likely related to debt or pension funds.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think that governments that go into their fifth year are lame ducks trying to delay the inevitable.

    This partial privatisation is not exactly a vote winner is it. The result of this would be to push Brown's election date from this May or October to 2010!

    Why can't Labour wait until after the General Election to pursue this?

  • Comment number 9.

    Umm, perhaps because it allows a smokescreen for the Coroners Bill where lazy journalists only report the stories on a plate ?

    Heaven forbid that the great nick Robinson may actually report something not on Labour Party's agenda.

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course, this whole issue highlights the pensions apartheid that exists in this country; between the public sector workers on generous final salary pension schemes and the vast majority of private sector workers, who are not.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm not overly bothered for myself what happens to Royal Mail, as given that I'm based in London I will expect to continue to receive a reasonable postal service no matter what. But I do feel very sorry for those in the Scottish Highlands or similarly "unprofitable" locations if this privatisation goes ahead.

    I know the government will say that the commitment to a universal postal service will be maintained by regulators.

    Don't we also have regulators to ensure that BT doesn't abuse their monopoly, that water companies behave themselves, and that the trains run on time? Weren't the banks supposed to be kept under control by regulators as well?

    Forgive me if I'm not convinced.

  • Comment number 12.

    Dear Nick,

    Royal Mail seems like a good system that is wrong with (Za)Nu(Improved)Labour.

    Take something that works, tinker around with it, watch it crumble, and then use my money to sort it out, (whilst blaming America- lol)

    Does sound familiar does it not???


  • Comment number 13.

    ...and yet Nick like so many in the BBC and other news organisations you've ignored the EU dimension in this.

    We HAVE to privatise the Royal Mail (open it up to competition) due to EU Directives as described here:

  • Comment number 14.


    "Left to its own devices, Royal Mail would simply go bust - sunk by the massive deficit in its pension fund."

    You must know as I do that the government has plundered the public pensions, reducing them to the shocking levels they are now.

    And now that it's all gone a wee bit sour, they're going to flog the only profitable parts of the business off to private hands and saddle us poor taxpayers with more debt from the pension liability. And then, probably, they'll plunder the pensions again - those liabilities aren't included in that inane figure Brown trots out hourly.

    It's a disgrace that this is happening. This isn't a Labour, Tory, or Lib Dem party-political issue, this is simply a bad, bad, bad piece of legislation.

    Yes, what ministers think is important, and I like hearing what they tell you off-record. But try to give us the bigger picture too please.

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh dear. The elephant in the room has been missed again.

    Here's a hint. Two letters. EU.

  • Comment number 16.

    I doubt that privatising 30% of the service is going to solve anything. But then neither do I see what's special about the postal worker's pensions. No-one's pension (with the exception it seems of those fat cat bankers) is safe these days.

  • Comment number 17.

    Maybe this sounds naive, (and Stephanie Flanders could answer this rather better than Nick), but my understanding of Economics 101 is that selling assets in a "worst in 100 years" crisis is a act of desperation.

    I can not see he logic of selling or part selling it now when almost all asset prices are plunging are record setting rates.

    The pension deficit is a massive red herring, because it is the same problem whether or not it is sold.

    So is the modernisation issue. That can be done by the Royal Mail itself.

    All that is required is the political will to allow management to take on the uni...ons...No...wait, i am begining to see where my argument is breaking down.

  • Comment number 18.

    This still does not answer the question why are they picking this fight now. The cost of the pension fund is a drop in the ocean as to that which has been spent on banks.

    Brown has gone to extreme lengths to keep his party and voters on side, sometimes to the detriment of the health of our economy, why now is he throwing it away for this issue. We seem to be missing something here.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why should the tax payer fill the black hole that is the Post Office pension fund?

    A black hole is a black hole. Gorden Brown should use the 5 billion tax raid he made on private pension funds since Nu Labour came to power to fill the gap.

    My contribution is somewhere in those tax receipts - I should not have to pay again.

    And what about the fact that Alister Darling could have prevented the ex-RBS chairman from drawing a £650,000 annual pension at the age of 50. The word scandal seems insufficient to describe whats going on.

  • Comment number 20.

    Words fail me with this government. It is just endless broken promises. Silly me they did not promise to part-privatise, just like GB did not say he had abolished boom and bust! Lets face it they can promise what they like but I would not trust them as far as I could throw them.

    The logic seems flawed. The pension pot is the problem but if the tax-payer takes on this liability then we can part-privatise to get money in for modernisation. If they want the smooth then they should take the rough. Otherwise leave it in the public sector, get some decent management in, stop this silly unfair competition and run it as a SERVICE. The profit it is making can be ploughed into re-structuring and modernisation.

    Tell you what Lord Mandlebrot. I'll do it. I could not do any worse a job than previous incumbents.

  • Comment number 21.

    How can you have a real time meaningful blog when it takes an hour to pre-moderate a comment? Surely the Brown Broadcasting Corporation can act quicker than this?

  • Comment number 22.

    Have you run the numbers Nick?

    Maybe Mandy should a party on a yacht?

    Any comment on this gob smacking admission by the "incompetent" Darling

    Light touch regulation, not looking at the contracts before deciding the plan of action plus all the dithering that went on beforehand...

    What else are they going to admit that they got wrong.

    Do you think Darling was so angry because someone else found out and was going to do the expose and forced the admission from his lips?

    Any chance we could have a brief outline of how to get a vote of no confidence?

  • Comment number 23.

    I understand that the only which is to be retained would be the name 'Royal Mail'

    Well no you couldn't really sell that could you - because it wouldn't be.

  • Comment number 24.

    Are there not a few competing tectonic forces at work here.

    1. The country is not bust but is in DIRE straights and are there many choices? But then it sounds as though they should have been aware of this problem for a long time.

    2. As you identify there are leadership positioning issues.

    3. It may well be that many senior Labour figures know they haven't got a cats chance in hell of winning the next election. Labour doesn't do policy debate anymore but perhaps their positioning is more to do with sentiments of preserving Labour from fatal damage at the next election.

    For example nobody seems to have asked whether the HBOS buyout had as much to do with the 2010 Scottish referendum as with financial stability. If Labour have destroyed the economy (the worm has turned at the FSA) AND they lose the referendum on Scottish independence that will be a catastrophe. There would be knock on effects to Trident location, armed forces numbers etc etc. The Iraq war inquiry is apparently not going to happen before the election.

    Are Labour bust and how do the Unions justify funding them as their members hit the streets jobless in large numbers?

    4. Therefore you do feel that the Labour machine is starting to over-rev and may experience a severe breakdown in the next twelve months.

  • Comment number 25.

    Personally, I'd rather concentrate on the evidence of Lord Turner yesterday to the Treasury Select Committee, wherein he confirmed that the current financial disaster was more to do with the Crashmeister's "not just light touch, limited touch" regulation system than a "global problem, wot started in 'merica, guv".

    Still, I suppose this takes peoples' minds off that, doesn't it.

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh Dear.

    This looks like yet another complete Horlicks, does it not?

    Can nationalise a bank, but cant run the post office as a fully nationalised industry...

    can bale out RBS, HBOS, et al but cant bale out the RM pension fund or save LDV,

    Looks like someone gave all those chickens SatNavs.... they're all legging it in the direction of Downing St right now! Gordon'll think he's living in a hen-house by the end of the week!

  • Comment number 27.

    Peter Mandelson’s involvement with
    Royal Mail comes at the tail-end of a long,
    insidious process to undermine it
    commercially and sell it off. Our ‘leaders
    knew this all along!

  • Comment number 28.

    People tend to think in a binary way about this, that is, private or public ownership of a business such as the Royal Mail.

    There is a hybrid that has been demonstrated to be very effective, namely the 'partnership' model ala John Lewis.

    Crozier and Leighton suggested this idea to the Government a while back but they rejected it.

    I do not know why they rejected it but I have requested my MP to find out precisely why.

    If I get any sort of sensible answer, that is, not a 'non-answer' then I will let you all know.

    PS. It is the sort of question that you'd hope a political journalist might ask.

  • Comment number 29.

    Now we have Hain admitting that we handed over detainees to the US

    Did he send them via the Royal mail?

  • Comment number 30.

    "Why, at a time like this, are ministers picking a fight with many of their own supporters about partially privatising one of the most cherished institutions in the country?"

    Perhaps Nick Robinson should actually do some journalism and try to look outside of his narrow Westminster blinkers. The reality is that this government has no choice in the matter as postal services are being reformed throughout the EU as part of an EU directive. See:

  • Comment number 31.

    This is complete rubbish. The public sector, we are told, does not have the management expertise to run the Post Office. The private sector, we are told, are not capable of running the banks.

    There is only one thing the public sector cannot run and that is the country.

  • Comment number 32.

    I really don't believe that this government cares about British communities.

    Driven by greed and panic. Yes, I said panic.

  • Comment number 33.

    If postal workes were bankers they would not have to worry about pensions, as they seem to get theirs.

  • Comment number 34.

    Lord Mandelson, writing in the Daily Mirror, admitted that he knew the issue was "politically different" but was determined to confront it head on.

    "My door is open and I will listen to these concerns," he said.

    Ministers MAY make a statement in Parliament outlining government policy after the bill's publication.

    Exactly who does Mandleson think he is? I am getting really fed up with this man`s arrogance. Why is Gordon Brown allowing this unelected peer to run the government at the moment and to dictate policy as if he was the Prime Minister. I strongly suspect that the real reason why so many MPs are apposing this bill, is to give Mandleson a bloody nose and not because they oppose part privatisation of the Royal Mail.

    Unless I missed something in the coverage of this story his Lordship is proposing the continuation of universal delivery across the country; but will it be at a universal cost to the customer, no matter what the distance?

    One for you to follow up Nick.

  • Comment number 35.

    ghanimah @ 13

    You point us via a link to an EU directive concerning Postal Legislation.

    I have had a very brief read of this and see nothing particularly adverse in this.

    For Europe to function efficiently as a single market, then it seems to me, imperative that there must be a level playing field across the EU for goods and services.

    This is fundamentally what 'harmonisation' is all about (which also should include taxes).

    The EU bureaucrats and associated politicians generally seem to do a dreadful job of explaining the actual and potential benefits of 'belonging' to the people of at least this country, but a lot of what they are attempting to achieve actually makes sense.

  • Comment number 36.

    I have just received an email from Gordon Brown:

    We received a petition asking:

    “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign due to gross financial incompetence in running the British economy.”

    Read the Government’s response

    The success of the Government’s macroeconomic framework, introduced in 1997, means that the UK is facing the international financial crisis and the recession it has caused around the world from a solid foundation. Credible medium term objectives and mechanisms for short-term flexibility mean that the Bank of England and the Government can deliver the necessary support to the economy without compromising their commitments to low inflation and sound public finances.

    The Government’s priorities to get Britain through the recession fairly are to prevent the collapse of the banking system, so that people’s savings are secure and the banks can do their job; to get the financial system lending responsibly again so as to support businesses, jobs and growth; to support the economy and jobs through direct government action, including tax cuts and important investment projects; and to help people through these tough times, from homeowners with difficulties paying their mortgages, or people seeking employment or training, to small businesses with cashflow problems and larger businesses needing working capital.

    Action has also been taken to boost our economy by putting money in people’s pockets and bringing investment plans forward. This includes:

    · income tax cuts of £145 for every basic rate taxpayer;
    · £60 extra for every pensioner in January 2009;
    · a VAT cut worth on average over £200 to every family this year; and
    · an extra £3 billion investment in projects that will protect and create jobs.

    Further details of the measures the Government has put in place to provide real help now so that homeowners, families and businesses can get through the downturn fairly are available online at

    In addition to discretionary fiscal policy to support the economy through these difficult times the 2008 Pre-Budget Report announced a sustained fiscal consolidation from 2010-11 when the economy is expected to be recovering and able to support a reduction in borrowing:

    · restricting the income tax personal allowance for those with incomes over £100,000 from April 2010, and introducing a new additional higher rate of income tax of 45 per cent for those with incomes above £150,000 from April 2011;

    · increasing the employee, employer and self-employed rates of national insurance contributions by 0.5 per cent from April 2011;

    · to offset the effects of the temporary reduction in VAT, increasing alcohol and tobacco duties, maintaining these increases after December 2009 to support fiscal consolidation; and following a fall in pump prices of over 20 pence per litre from their summer peaks, a two pence per litre increase in fuel duty from 1 December 2008; and

    · an additional £5 billion value for money target for 2010-11 and setting assumptions for spending growth from 2011-12 onwards.

    We will continue to do everything we can in the current difficult times to give real help now to families and businesses, and help our economy to come through this recession as quickly as possible, and we will take the tough decisions in the medium-term to maintain low inflation and sound public finances. This will ensure the UK is well-placed to prosper in the new global economy which will follow the current global recession.


    I'll take that as a NO then!

  • Comment number 37.

    Oh my God!! Mandy trying to 'woo' someone??? The thought have sent a chilling shiver down my spine!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Working in the private sector without a safety net, I have little sympathy for the postal workers.

    Their pensions should be reformed so that their scheme is affordable, the rest of us are not subsidised and have to make do.

    The postal service is now appalling, at my place of business somedays we have next to nothing for a few days followed by a glut of post. It is hard to see the point in the second class mail service, when the whole system is so erratic and dare I say second class anyhow.

    After the last dispute many businesses turned to emailing their paperwork and a lot have not reverted back to the post. Further disruption would just be counter productive

  • Comment number 39.

    This government is all over the place.

    Let's see.

    RBS was a Public Company. Owned by corporate, private and pension fund shareholders - right? Overseen by the Treasury, BoE and FSA - right? (Now it's obvious that Brown designed a three headed lion, but forgot to include teeth! The new Head of the FSA say they had no egal powers to intervene and "sort" any institution that had an unworkable business structure!)

    People are angry because non of the key RBS Board members held banking qualifications.

    Brown's agencies say that corporations must focus on keeping pension funds topped up, rather than paying dividends.

    RBS made an emergency "rights issue", subsequently followed by disclosure of a massive loss. It seems that, at least, the Scottish Police may investigate whether investors were made aware of the complete fragility of the bank. If you seek to raise GBP12 Billion, when you fear yo're going down the pan, it is (at best) smelly...

    RBS was bust. Brown shovelled (or is the process of shovelling) GBP 39BILLION of our money into a failed bank.

    What about Royal Mail Group?

    That is a private company. (Although Royal Mail Holdings Group seems to be described as a PLC.) Entirely owned by the Government (us... tax-payers. Held in trust by the government of the day).

    Overseen by PostComm. Forced by government to accept "downstream services providers". (As part of the EU directive to "open the markets", which has been far more selectively applied across other countries.) Those are folk like TNT who pick up bulk mail from people like government departments - after all, why should they give a stuff whether a publicly owned company could be disadvantaged? It wouldn't affect their bonus prospects... They the third parties sort stuff and do the easy distribution to Royal Mail centres. Then the "last mile" - always the most expensive part of any distribution operation - is done by posties.

    Check Royal Mail accounts and you'll find that they subsidise the commercial companies to the extent of GBP100+Million. Another clever bit of government administration?

    Have a look at the Board membership of Royal Mail Holdings. I couldn't spot a single person who had direct operational experience/expertise in logistics and distribution. Is there a public outcry? Nah.
    Is there a Minister demanding an injection of genuine expertise? Nah.
    Diversity on a Board should be a good thing. But diversity without fundamental knowledge of how the business works is a waste of time and money.

    The government is now underwriting GBP 300+Billion of RBS "assets" (equivalent to almost half of a single year's UK tax take).

    The Royal Mail pension schemes are between GBP 5 - 9 BILLION in deficit.

    Who, as shareholders, were responsible for pressurising the company to keep the fund stable? Government.

    Who as shareholders could have injected money to limit the damage (equivalent to a rights issue in the commercial world...)? The Government.

    This mob have no idea how business works.

    Why should they? How many Ministers have ever done anything as appallingly gross as getting involved at the working levels of the commercially focused "delivering" companies who produce tax-take? You don't need the fingers of two hands... Even one hand would be a bit optimistic.

    Doesn't matter, though. When they drift off, we'll keep on paying their pensions.

    I just hope that "real" companies will stop adding ex-Ministers to their Boards as though they brought expertise and "kudos". I could probably find dozens of people with a suitably sceptical view-point to enhance a board. Rather than a sub-prime Privy Councillor...

  • Comment number 40.

    Just two more examples of those Tory toffs sucking up to their hedge fund friends in the City!!

    1) John Prescott

    "I've got a pretty busy week this week. On Thursday, I'm appearing at the London Labour Gala dinner in Canary Wharf to raise money for the party. Alastair did the last one - it's a three course meal for £50 and organised by London organiser Peter May, who always puts on a good night."


    2) Lord and Lady Myners

    Baron Myners said recently "I have met more masters of the universe than I would like to, people who were grossly over-rewarded and did not recognise that. Some of that is pretty ­unpalatable. They are people who have no sense of the broader society around them."

    Broader society is suffering terribly as the banking and debt crisis ravages the economy. Yet the former Smith Institute deputy chairman, Guardian Media Group chairman, hedge fund director, long time Brown crony and newly appointed City Minister, Lord Myners of Short Selling, isn't showing any signs of belt tightening. Quite the contrary, he is hosting gilded parties.

    Yesterday he and Lady Myners "graciously" invited their friends from the art world, politics and upper reaches of the Guardian into their Belgravia home to view their multi-million pound modern art collection.

    hat-tip Guido

  • Comment number 41.

    The ball is crossed and with a spectaculer scissors kick Darling scores a fantastic OWN GOAL

    Surely now there is no way back for Labour, Since Blair left the pitch handing Brown the Captains armband they have managed to squander their lead and now trail by 12

  • Comment number 42.

    "Standard Chartered, a British bank that was run by Lord Davies, the trade minister, has been accused by the Foreign Office of 'propping up' President Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe.

    Internal Whitehall emails seen by The Telegraph show the concern at the Foreign Office about the involvement of Standard Chartered Bank in Zimbabwe.

    Lord Davies of Abersoch was chief executive and then chairman of the bank until last month when he became a trade and investment minister. Standard Chartered is among a handful of foreign banks operating in Zimbabwe. It employs 860 people and has 24 branches there.

    However, an internal Foreign Office briefing document accuses Standard Chartered of diverting money to the Mugabe government.

    The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, say that Standard Chartered had been "diverting" cash to the regime through a loans scheme."


    And people on here were thinking that the ZaNuLabour references were a joke or offensive!!

    Maybe Lord Davies is now advising Gordon Brown!

  • Comment number 43.

    This all sounds ominous to me.

    The whole public sector pension thing is the mother of all time bombs anyway. This may be the first of many battles to come as the British people discover that funding public sector pensions as they stand will only add to the momentum towards state bankruptcy.

    I'm one of that minority (it seems) who believes that this crisis, which started in the summer of 2007, has barely begun to unfold. It makes me laugh (ironically, of course) when I read of politicians and others announcing that this will all be over by Christmas and that 2010 will mark the great climb out. Ho, ho, ho.

    Can't wait to hear Alistair Darling's fantasy budget when it comes in April; that'll no doubt have me rolling about on the floor.

  • Comment number 44.

    The real question is why would anyone support this rabble of a government? Better the devil you know? Well we do not know because they are constantly having to admit cover ups/sleeze/incompetence after the event. Whoever you are - working, middle or upper class - they are fleecing you. All the money they are throwing around like confetti will have to be repaid sometime. That means job losses for most of us and where will the Labour MPs be - swanning around in their "second" homes/mansions with their fat untouchable pensions.

    How much more do we need to get rid of them?

    They have constantly misled the general public - manifesto pledges, wars, a bank bail out with strings attached, boom and bust etc. etc. They cannot be trusted to change a lightbulb.

    If any MP in the Labour party really cared about this country they would act now and call for a vote of no confidence.

  • Comment number 45.

    Mandy keeps on saying what "HE" wants to see and what he wants to do etc. etc.

    How on earth has our democracy come to this, when an unelected PM appoints an unelected, twice disgraced follower of the gravy train, to such a key positiion at a time like this, and allows him to make such sweeping and controversial decisions?

    The sooner we see the back of this lot the better.

  • Comment number 46.

    This pathetic episode simply demonstrates how our disjointed Government is digging itself an even deeper hole -- let's hope that a few more examples of disfunctional incompetence will be enough to force an election -- we can't afford to let these clowns carry on too much longer!

  • Comment number 47.

    Dear Nick,

    I wish to ammend my blog at No.12 to this...


    Take something that works, get pushed around by the EU and forced to sell everything, deny this, then bail it out using my money.

    Does sound familiar does it not???


  • Comment number 48.

    Why do the BBC never mention the true reason that we HAVE to privatise the Royal Mail...??

    The EU.

  • Comment number 49.

    Labours dilemma - is this Nick Robinson speak of how to re-interpret their own manifesto so they can ignore it ?

    Ohhhhh, Nick believes the line that part privatisation isn't the same as privatisation !

  • Comment number 50.

    To get back to the real topic of the blog

    Labour'e Dilemma

    Maybe it should be whether they go today or tomorrow?

    I also think you missed the elephant in the room Nick? What is the government's interpretation of the EU's involvement in this whole debacle

  • Comment number 51.

    Here is an interesting Early Day Motion from the House of Commons. The motion has been tabled by the DUP MP, Gregory Campbell and at time of writing has one other signature on it, that of his DUP colleague, David Simpson. The motion is titled "Politicians and the Economic Downturn" and reads,

    That this House notes the extent of the economic downturn right across the United Kingdom; realises the significant degree of cynicism that exists among the general public in relation to how politicians are responding to the effect the downturn is having on average families, many of whom are facing uncertainty regarding employment and their standards of living; and recognises the need for politicians, irrespective of party labels, as well as all others paid for out of the public purse, to have an obligation in demonstrating value for money approaches in whatever capacity they are employed and to show cost reductions where possible as a contribution towards the exceptionally difficult economic times in the nation."


    I have emailed my local MP via

    to make them aware of this EDM and to ask if they will be signing it.

    Why not do the same?

  • Comment number 52.

    Nick, you can't be unaware of the EU dimension. So why do you (as in the BBC, not just yourself) persistently ignore it?

    Someone's probably given you this link already (it's difficult to have a meaningful discussion when posts from 1½ hours ago still haven't been moderated) but it covers neatly the exact point you raise.

  • Comment number 53.

    What is this piffle?
    Nothing on Vince Cable calling the Golem's latest banking wheeze a "disgrace" or having said that the government has "lost the plot"?
    All we get here is the Golem's spin on the Royal Mail. That's, as Vince might put it, a disgrace.

  • Comment number 54.

    Dear Nick,
    why is there no blog on the BBC about the Jack Straw's disregard of Freedom of Information by closing the files on the decision making involved prior to the Iraq War?
    This is an awful decision and mires most of the serving cabinet, the PM, Tony Blair et al in "hide the dirty laundry" sleaze.
    The BBC should allow a blog and encourage people to ask why this whitewash has been allowed to happen.
    Sorry I have posted on the Royal Mail blog...solidarity to all postmen, why not sell off Portcullis House to the private sector, 10 Downing Street could do B and B, isn't it about time the Government stopped embracing economic policies that have been shown to be destructive.
    What has happened to the 9.5 billion from the pension fund.......
    The TIRED out of ideas Government should reflect on its record of...
    etc etc
    before it has a go at postmen

  • Comment number 55.

    ghanimah, Aretherenonamesleft, gruvster and possibly some others who have not had their posts modded yet, have all got this right.

    IT IS THE EU!!!!

  • Comment number 56.


    Nice to see your on the ball re: Darling's admision that the GVN could have stoped Sir Fred's pension.

    As for the Post Office - if you as taxpayers are taking over the pension fund liability, then is the Treasyry also taking command / control over the monies currently invested in the pension fund.

    If the answer is yes - then perhaps Brown wants to press ahead with the deal, because it will give HM treasury an immediate cash/assets injection. Of course, he doesn't give two hoots that this 'gain' will be wiped out (and then some) by future liabilities - because he won't be in power when the bill arrives. After all haven't the dead tree press also reported that Gordon has eye on raiding other public sector pension pots.

    On a totally seperate topic - do you know if Gordon and Robert Maxwell were friends? You know with both of them, being lerading lights in the Labour movement...?

  • Comment number 57.

    one of the most cherished institutions in the country

    Never heard it called that before

    Have it called bloody ..censored.. and ..deleted.. Oh yes and ..detained for 42 days..

    Postal workers are overpaid, workshy luddites, says government report

    Come on privatise it and put it out of our misery.

  • Comment number 58.

    @36 Yellowbelly

    You should start another petition asking him to resign for writing such twaddle

    "The success of the Government?s macroeconomic framework, introduced in 1997, means that the UK is facing the international financial crisis and the recession it has caused around the world from a solid foundation."

    There isnt a shred of truth in that paragraph apart from it was a macroeconomic framework that was introduced in 1997.
    Success no, solid foundation no

    "? a VAT cut worth on average over ?200 to every family this year; and"

    Already proved untrue unless you spend Close to £10,000 a year on VAT rated items

  • Comment number 59.

    Gordon Brown has been rebuked by the Westminster sleaze watchdog for subletting taxpayer-funded office space to Labour Party colleagues.
    The Prime Minister "inadvertently" broke rules by allowing premises in his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency to be used.

    Lessons from a one Ms J Smith ?

  • Comment number 60.

    I wouldn't trust anything Mandelson insists is a good idea after forcing through the Lloyds TSB HBOS merger, against competition rules, and against the advice of former heads and the Scottish government.

    It's ridiculous that the government will hang postal workers out to dry. Be prepared for a radically reduced service if this proposal comes to fruition.

    Hopefully there will be enough of a backbench revolt to scupper this move.

    After watching the Portillo on Thatcher documentary (very enlightening), it's hard not to see the parallels with the current regime and the death throws of the Major government.

    Too many Thatcherites scuppered Major, too many Blairites scuppering Brown? Probably not. However the infighting has begun, leadership challenges and votes of confidence (Harmann) etc. Like the Major government, they know they can't possibly win the next election, so meltdown has ensued.

    I just wish that there was a credible alternative, as the documentary concluded, has the Tory party really changed. I sincerely hope so, but its sad we have so little choice in British politics. However that may soon change.

  • Comment number 61.

    Yet another leak just before a bill is due to be debated - are the police on their way to raid someone's office ? Or isn't this leak embarrassing enough ?

    Maybe this is to cover up the story on Freddy goodwin's £650K per annum for life ?

    By the way how much is Gordon Brown's pension pot now ?

  • Comment number 62.



    get yourself over to Pestons blog for some pretty damning stuff on Myners.

    Guess who is at the centre of the gawdalmighty horlicks over Sir Fred's Pension?

    The person who was on the spot at the time who told RBS they wanted The Shred out?

    Who should have done the diligence on the pension and the payoff?

    Who indeed???

  • Comment number 63.

    JohnConstable @ 35

    You seem to accept there is an EU dimension to this. As do I, although we might differ as to whether there should be.

    The point is, why is Nick studiously ignoring this dimension, as the BBC usually does, when it is vitally important to understanding why the Government is pressing ahead? I don't believe he doesn't know about it.

  • Comment number 64.

    The success of the Government?s macroeconomic framework, introduced in 1997, means that the UK is facing the international financial crisis and the recession it has caused around the world

    On the first read through of that bit I thought it meant that the UK had caused the international financial crisis and the recession around the world :)

  • Comment number 65.

    Post 30 referred to the EU directive - alas every other country in the EU is ignoring this for the rubbish it is - do you really think any private firm is going to collect mail from your street corner, sort it, ship it, and deliver it to your door, in less than 2 days for less than 40p.

    The Mail relied on the money it made from post office counters and parcels - the privitisation was a debacle from start to end.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 66.

    There are a number of compelling reasons why the government is pushing ahead with this despite runblings of a fight ahead.

    Firs, its an EU directive that they have to follow.

    Second, the task of licking the Post Office into a profitable business will fall to a private company, not a union-sponsored government, with all the difficulties that entails.

    The bad news is the pension shortfall, which I suspect will be hived off to make RM look profitable (for a while anyway), to be swept under the carpet to join the ever-increasing lump.

    No-one has yet pulled the carpet back to reveal the pretty obvious elephant hiding there that is our national debt.

    Will someone please stop Brown and Darling feeding it buns?

  • Comment number 67.

    The reason the fight is being picked is simple....Gordelpus wants the party to sack him and then somebody else can take the blame for not sorting the countrys finances out

  • Comment number 68.

    Regarding Brown's apology for his offic sub letting, Labour's former Scottish First Minister Henry Mcleish resigned due to a similar affair:

    "The Central Fife MSP said he took "full personal responsibility" for the mistakes which had been made over the sub letting of his constituency office in Glenrothes."

    But an apology is enough it seems. Just how far to the right has New Labour moved from its roots, it's as if the Torys are the left wing party in parliament at times now Labour have moved so far. Perhaps we've moved into the world of US politics with Torys and Ultra Torys?

  • Comment number 69.

    Many people seem to be dissatisfied with what Royal Mail offers. Actually, where we are the normal day-to-day service isn't half bad, and not particularly expensive either - in comparison.

    We have a little (probably more than most Brits, with our Dutch background) experience with the joys of having TNT as a partner in the postal delivery process. Ever since TNT got involved in the Dutch post service has gone way way down, and prices have skyrocketed. The actual business of delivering mail seems to have been made completely subservient to that of making money. All very well, but only up to a point.

    Now, the UK cannot have it both ways: if business costs are such that revenues generated do not cover them, either those costs have to be brought down, or revenues have to increase. Pensions are essentially a cost element; one which by its nature is a little less easy to reduce than the cost of new uniforms, say.

    This would leave increased revenues as a logical option, and believe you me, that is what TNT will do! Cost of sending a standard letter in the Netherlands is at least 50% higher than in the UK, especially when taking the 1st/2nd class options into account (as these do not exist over there). Then there is the added cost of going over the 20 gramme weight limit for letters. A standard size first class letter weighing close to 60 grammes (we send those out with great frequency) will set you back somewhere like 2.5 times as much in the Netherlands as in the UK. Justified? I don't know.

    What I do know is that TNT would renegotiate the maximum prices charged for various forms of post before taking part of Royal Mail off P Mandelson's plate, and that can only mean that prices will rise (perhaps even combined with reduced service). So if this government wants to go ahead with part privatizing Royal Mail, it will just be presenting a delayed bill to the British public.

    If that is the case, which it will be, it should be clearly stated, which it probably won't. After all, at that point the relative merits of the deal will look decidedly different. Even to the point where the UK might decide to try to plug the financial holes created in the past itself, before inviting in a wolf in sheepskin clothes.

    And on a wholly different note: I find it difficult to imagine how TNT can go on providing bulk mail services to banks such as Barclays (which it does now) while being a partner in Royal Mail, as it will at that point essentially be competing with itself. That can hardly have been the intention of opening up the postal market, and would actually lead to either reduced competition, or unfair advantages for TNT in its bulk mail business, having more insight in the Royal Mail part of the postal services than its other bulk mail competitors.

    A bit of a conundrum for mr Mandelson, I would say.

  • Comment number 70.

    #43 moraymint

    "This may be the first of many battles to come as the British people discover that funding public sector pensions as they stand will only add to the momentum towards state bankruptcy."

    That and the ludicrous discrepancy between civial servant retirment ages and the rest of the working populace.

  • Comment number 71.

    #42 - yellowbelly1959

    StandardChartered is, on the face of it, one of the very few UK financial institutions which are not in trouble. Now they stand accused of 'propping up' President Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe. Which sort of suggests that is more productive than propping up Gordon Brown's government - how ironic is that?

  • Comment number 72.

    May I suggest that posters read Postal Directives 2008/06/EC, 97/67/EC and 2002/39/EC before using them as sticks with which to beat the EU. These proposals relate to cross-border mail weighing less than 50 gr and costing less than two-and-a-half times the basic tariff as from 1 January 2006 - i.e. an estimated additional 7 % market opening to competition. They are available HERE.

    They say nothing about domestic postal services and attempting to blame government policy on an EU directive is a gross distortion of the case. This is a matter for the UK government and if they are wrong, it is their fault.

  • Comment number 73.

    72. At 6:18pm on 26 Feb 2009, threnodio

    No, thenodio, I suggest you read the full postal legislation agenda, it is patently not limited to what you describe.

  • Comment number 74.

    Anybody who thinks that Labour rebels will attempt to bring down this government by voting against the bill is living in cloud cuckoo land. They may posture and spout off against it but they will not risk losing their place on the gravy train just yet, they will support the bill when push comes to shove and take their chances on some miracle saving their bacon at the coming election

  • Comment number 75.

    #40 yellowbelly 1959

    Yesterday he and Lady Myners "graciously" invited their friends from the art world, politics and upper reaches of the Guardian into their Belgravia home to view their multi-million pound modern art collection.


    I think this is a tax break. I seem to remember that if you own antiquities and you exhibit them to Joe Public for a few days every year, there is a generous tax refund to be had. If this is wrong, I apologise.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    Susan Croft

    This still does not answer the question why are they picking this fight now. The cost of the pension fund is a drop in the ocean as to that which has been spent on banks.


    Deflection. While we're all fuming about Fred's pension and looking one way, we don't notice anything else.

  • Comment number 78.

    The Tories are supporting Mr Brown in his endeavours to implement the EU Postal Services Directives. The "full market opening", under EU rules, must be in place by 2010. That really tells you all you need to know about who governs this country and they aren't in Westminster!

  • Comment number 79.


    Why should the tax payer fill the black hole that is the Post Office pension fund?


    Why not? We've already filled the large black hole in the MP's pension fund, but it wasn't really reported, was it Nick?!

  • Comment number 80.

    If Brown is going to bail out the pension liabilities, does that mean he will also return to the private pensions what he robbed whilst C of E?

  • Comment number 81.

    " 72. At 6:18pm on 26 Feb 2009, threnodio wrote:
    May I suggest that posters read Postal Directives 2008/06/EC, 97/67/EC and 2002/39/EC before using them as sticks with which to beat the EU. These proposals relate to cross-border mail weighing less than 50 gr and costing less than two-and-a-half times the basic tariff as from 1 January 2006 - i.e. an estimated additional 7 % market opening to competition. They are available HERE.

    They say nothing about domestic postal services and attempting to blame government policy on an EU directive is a gross distortion of the case. This is a matter for the UK government and if they are wrong, it is their fault."

    Hi guy,

    Couldn't agree with you more.

    This administration didn't have a clue about how business works, so they introduced fairly stupid interpretations of EU "directives" (which actually means pan-European laws, but nobody will accept that interpretation).

    My concern is that local Governments (actually our's) swallow stuff and interprete "edicts" as though they really should be introduced as soon as possible. Compare that with French and other governments. Take a look at how many EU edicts have been actually been actually becomer part of local law - and been applied with any rigour.

    Take a look at how many bits of legal or regulatory edicts have been nodded-through by MPs. It's a disgrace. I challenge anyone on this site to find a single MP who has read every line of every new bit of regulation - and considered ther implications - over the last few years.

    Find someone (any MP who could go on a "Univerrsity Challenge" type programme and explain why he/she nodded all that stuff through - not just the bits they thought they were fun to be engaged with - since they were elected) and I would offer my house as a prize. (I'm old enough to have bought a few houses outright. All paid for after taxes... But all places for family to live in - not second, third or other properties. So I am definitely NOT like Blair.).

    If stuff just flows through, at thousands of bits of law per year, how can anyone individually read and consider it? So how can they "sign it off"?

    This administration has adapted EU directives at a rate that has simply NOT been matching the reactions of other countries' governments.

    We charge in, as though it is really important. There are just too many instances to quote of other countries who work the EU regulations through their systems when it "suits".

    Goodness help us all if Blair ends up as the Pres of the EU. (Although I'm fairly sure there would be a book-deal somehow associated with it... And probably a role for Cherie... )

    I can't be alone in thinking that politics has been much more morally corrupt than it used to be?

    If I am, Goodness help you all.

  • Comment number 82.


    I know there is a bit of a malais at the moment, but if you could just track Jack Boot Jackie down to wherever she is staying tonight...could you ask her about the assertions made by one of your colleagues on his blog about the knife crime statistics?

    I wanted to post the link, but it seems to destroy the whole posting, but if you can write a blog I'm sure you can search the BBC site?

  • Comment number 83.


    thank you, most illuminating

    Next question has to be why the government says it has to do things in certain ways because of the EU with regard to the Royal Mail.

  • Comment number 84.

    #61 - Secret Love

    "By the way how much is Gordon Brown's pension pot now ?"

    Who cares providing he needs it very very soon?

  • Comment number 85.

    Stand back and read the background, folks.

    The Labour party is now internally split, fighting to be the next King Log.

    The problem is that we now have a year of bickering and infighting in front of us while nothing happens to sort the mess.

    And if you want a recipe for finishing the job, that's it, Rahere's forecasts will come true. Perhaps the only serious answer will be for the opposition to secede and set up a functional government in rebellion.

  • Comment number 86.

    Interesting, StrongholdBarricades is replaced by Threnodio for non-moderation. Anyone with a U-monniker out there?

  • Comment number 87.

    They are gambling with the recovery, if there is ever going to be one.

    I live in the countryside and do most of my shopping online for just about everything from clothes, plants for the garden to furniture for the house (apart from food, which day to day is at my local village shop and PO). I rely on the local PO to continue this way of life, which is both sustainable, and economical.

    Anyone made redundant with the enterprise to start up a new small business, is going to create an online/mail order one... for it to succeed, they will depend on the Royal Mail functioning as it does now, in the main, reliably and efficiently. Courier companies just don't compare with the steady reliability of Royal Mail and I can quote numerous incidents to illustrate my point.

    Mandelson is meddling with the recovery. I'd like him to spend a year living 20 miles from the nearest town away from his urban conveniences before he risks destroying our last great public service.

  • Comment number 88.

    Is part privatisation is stupid: Any semsible buyer will buy the good, profitable bits of RM and leave the dross to the taxpayer to sort out.

    An all or nothing approach is needed - privatise completely or keep in public ownership (but seriously reform).

    But to do this the government would have to make some hard decisions (such as whether to take on the EU, the unions or both). This government, however, is incapable of wiping its nose.

  • Comment number 89.


    My comment 73 (6.41pm) remains unpublished and 'awaiting moderation' despite being posted more than two hours ago.

    Why the delay?

    And why the selective posting of some comments over many, many earlier ones???

  • Comment number 90.

    Erm .. EVERYONE's pension is looking bleak now, Nick, because the stockmarket has dropped. In 5 years time it will be at a low and another 5 years on it will be up again. So the question is if EVERYONE's pension plan looks rubbish, then why is NuLab using it as an excuse to privatise just the royal mail? They would privatise the whole government if pension plan health was the measure!!! (well, except parliament, of course, clearly MP's pensions will be OK!)

    BTW, I am a virulent capitalist and yet I believe some things should be run as a service to ensure the best results for our civilisation. Things like post office, railway, roads, telephones, defence etc. are part of the infrastructure and should not be profit centres, but should be cost centres, subsidised by the people for the people. That is the only way to control them and make them deliver services that are crucial to the running of the country.


  • Comment number 91.

    This is getting boring. Everyone seems to hate and despise the government. Where are CEH and derekbarker ? Have they capitulated ? How come the polls show 28% backing for Labour, yet no-one (except the BBC) seems to want to defend them ?

  • Comment number 92.

    It seems that Sir Fred Goodwin is to have his gross pension for life. Alas, as the old saying goes, only the good die young. Not of course, that one would wish him a speedy stage exit!

  • Comment number 93.

    Why has my posting #73 taken almost 3 hours to publish when it was in response to #72 ?????

  • Comment number 94.

    I know my memory's going, but I'm absolutely certain that it cant be more than.. ooh.. 15 years ago that the Tories were hell-bent on hiving off the Royal Mail to one or other of their financial backers... it was a rubbish idea then and it still is.
    I suppose this is what the Tories mean when they say that Labour always nicks their ideas.

  • Comment number 95.

    Dear Nick,

    Sorry to be a pain but why was this story leaked?

    Was it because last week GB was fingered as the man who told the FSA not to regulate too much in the city?

    Adair Turner told a Commons select committee that GB put pressure on regulators not to intervene in the reckless lending spree (which caused the banking crisis).

    He also admitted that the three-ring regulatory circus designed by GB, when he stripped the Bank of England of responsibility for overseeing banking practice, was simply 'not fit for purpose'.

    Please ask your (HP)source this minor, minor detail and find out the truth.

    What a busy week this is, all those bad news stories to bury on such a good day!

  • Comment number 96.

    Aretherenonamesleft @ 63

    There must be a EU dimension to many of the things that happen on this island as we are in the European Union.

    That is not a trite comment.

    Similarly, there must be an American dimension to many of the things that happen in, for example, New Jersey.

    The point I am labouring to make, in my usual cack-handed way, is that the EU is probably at the point, politically speaking, that America was at just after the Union was formed.

    Therefore it is very understandable for people, especially English people, to be rather suspicious about the whole EU project.

    Americans, were at the founding of the States, with respect to the 'Feds', very suspicious.

    The New Jerseyians, for example, did'nt even think of themselves as Americans so when George Washington at Morristown, NJ asked the assembled militia if they'd fight for the Union against the British, they replied no but we'll fight for New Jersey.

    Even today you'll hear plenty of mutterings about the politicians in Washingdon D.C.

    So there is nothing particularly unusual, in the context of history, regarding our suspicions about Brussels.

    Regarding your specific point about this political journalist, Nick Robinson, I doubt if he is particularly immune to the 'island mentality' that we who live here might be said to naturally have vis-a-vis 'the continent'.

    Especially, due to the compartmentalisation of functions within the Beebs journalistic world, there is already a European editor, one Mark Mardell.

    And, true to the 'euro' stereotypical image that we have of Europe, Mardell's blogs are full of euro-waffle.

    Odd that.

  • Comment number 97.

    No 84, it's a very pertinent point, with the Golem insisting there should be no reward for failure. His failure should not be rewarded anymore than Sir Fred Goodwin's should.

  • Comment number 98.

    A fine actress and a lovely lady, Wendy Richards, died today. She conducted herself with dignity and grace. living out her life until the end without great fanfare. Will our Great Leader accord her a few minutes out of respect for her contribution to British films and TV, or is it only bestowed upon those who employ Max Clifford?

  • Comment number 99.

    Sending letters is dying out - they are a slow form of communication and the delivery is unreliable and they use trees. They are also priced below their economic cost. These are the technological and economic influences.

    The politics is causing irrational and sentimental retention of the post. I recall the outcry when the Sunday deliverys was stopped and then the second delivery - both were deemed an essential part of the service.

    The price must go up to an economic level. There must be NO discounts for unsolicited bulk post - even a surcharge- (that should put pay to junk mail!) [or just make it illegal to send unsolicited post an imprisonable offence!!!]

    Twice a week delivery is sufficient. and a single priced universal service at say 60p per item (with small packets more) (or some such service) plus free email for everyone - a national universal email address as a right. A simple easily administered low cost efficient service that runs at a profit! Do these things and a 30 percent stake will not need to be sold.

  • Comment number 100.

    35. At 3:20pm on 26 Feb 2009, JohnConstable

    However, John, we have consistently been misled by politicians as to the scale and nature of the EU.

    The 'benefits' we have been told about seem to be very different to people's practical experience.

    Read # 69 for the reality -

    69. At 5:49pm on 26 Feb 2009, Meulendijk wrote:

    "...We have a little (probably more than most Brits, with our Dutch background) experience with the joys of having TNT as a partner in the postal delivery process. Ever since TNT got involved in the Dutch post service has gone way way down, and prices have skyrocketed. The actual business of delivering mail seems to have been made completely subservient to that of making money."

    Other examples -


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