The national fall-out from implementing an EU directive on postal competition, combined with decades of government mismanagement and underinvestment dating from when Postmaster General ceased to be a ministerial title brings into sharp relief two widely contrasting visions of our postal service.
First is the Euro vision of a pan-European postal service with homogenous postal rates and a single set of stamps for the whole continent that reinforces the integration of Europe. Moving and delivering the post to be carried out by a variety of commercial firms awarded short term contracts in order to realise the benefits of competition. Homogenous service standards which will not be high. In this model the branding of a European Universal Postal Service is the key objective; the handling of mail is secondary.
Secondly is the vision of a postal service as a key component of national infrastructure that fosters national cohesion and reinforces national identity, in which the security of the mail is uppermost and the probity of those tasked with handling and delivering it beyond question, to the extent that they are Crown servants and the mail is protected by strong laws.
There are, it must be admitted, good arguments for both models. The Euro model offers economic efficiency, and when the bulk of mail is business mail rather than personal letters, and for which time-to-deliver is less critical and security less important. The Royal Mail model offers greater security not only for financial instruments such as cheque books, bank cards and the like but at a time when identity theft poses huge risks for individuals, offers greater guarantees over sensitive personal information entrusted to the post. But at a cost. Permanent postmen are also valuable members of local communities, part of our social glue, and have saved countless lives by just noticing something wrong or out of the ordinary about a home on their beat, or 'walk'.
You won't be surprised that for me the advantages of a monopoly Royal Mail service with a strong national identity, permanent staff who are Crown servants and our own stamps with the Sovereign's head on them outweigh the economic efficiencies of the alternative. The additional cost is a price worth paying. That the idea is anathema to the Euro-cultists also makes it hugely attractive. Yes, working practices need changing and government investment is desperately required, but the Royal Mail is one of the few really good things about this nation that we have left. I will join the fight to save it.