So Peter Mandelson announces that Royal Mail is to be part privatised. Cue much teeth gnashing / soul searching / resignations / bemoaning of the loss of a national icon, bla bla. Come on folks, let’s get real about this. Royal Mail, much like Woolworths, MFI and plenty of others too, is a symbol of something quintessentially British, but actually we ought to be asking why it is not actually a whole lot better. Contrast queuing in a stinky Post Office on Walworth Road or next to St James’s Park Tube with Deutsche Post offices in Germany and Royal Mail does not shape up too well.
There’s also the way the privatisation is to be conducted, which looks like a typical British fudge. Rather that gradually privatise a state owned company the UK government’s solution is to essentially split up the service, allowing part of it to be acquired by TNT, Deutsche Post or someone else. The German style of privatisation – for post, railways, energy – has managed to create powerful and successful international players in their respective sectors would surely be a better model to follow – if indeed privatisation is at all deemed necessary.
So what should be done? As far as I see it Royal Mail should be organised according to these principles:
- Can universal service provision be guaranteed?
- Can service for customers be improved?
- Can pensions funds and workers’ rights be guaranteed?
Whether that is done via private enterprise or not isn’t actually the issue…