I am rather fond of some organisations, including the BBC, the NHS and the Post Office.  I’m not saying that they are without faults or necessarily well managed but I do feel that their very existence makes this country a better place to live.  These are all (for now) at least nominally owned by the people, but this means that they are all liable to the “I don’t watch BBC3, have cancer or live in Thurso so why am I having to pay for those that do” school of argument.

If these organisations do something well, we are expected to feel sorry for the poor, defenseless private sector and let them take over.  If they do something badly, we bemoan the waste of public money: surely the private sector could do it better?  I’m amazed that they can still attract new people to run these organisations, as you can never win (though, given the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, I guess that’s true for everyone).

Given the title, you should be unsurprised to learn that I shall be focusing on the Post Office.  It is a much diminished organisation from my youth: with its best bits sold to some geezer called Sid or opened to competition, while the Royal Mail soldiers on with both arms tied behind its back by its political masters.  Nonetheless, I go to frankly ridiculous lengths to use a supplier who delivers using some part of the Royal Mail when ordering on-line.  As well as aligning with what might be called my political position (albeit for a party of one), it means that when I miss a delivery I can collect my package after a short stroll to Sawston Post Office – rather a contrast to its commercial rivals who cart my goods off to a shed in the middle of nowhere (but, no doubt the rent’s cheap!).

The Royal Mail has just been allowed to set the price for stamps – I can only speculate who has been doing it up until now (but, certainly no-one asked me).  This has precipitated a big jump in prices – which I assume has been done so that the mail no longer runs at a loss (or at least a smaller one).  As discussed above, this looks like a lose-lose situation – probably a precursor to some more of the Post Office being sold to anyone who still has money: Russian oligarchs, middle-eastern monarchies or the Chinese would seem to be the usual suspects (though, at the risk of being accused of xenophobia, I’m not convinced I’d chose any of them to be in charge of delivering my Christmas cards).  I have a feeling that “the man” has been softening us up for this sale for a while now…

I am an uncle (I know, I don’t seem old enough – at least by reference to my apparent mental age), and as a result have caught glimpses of the new, 21st century incarnation of Postman Pat and his black and white cat (as a public service employee, he probably couldn’t afford the licence for a colour one).  He no longer works for the Royal Mail but for a shadowy organisation called SDS.  I had been assuming this is a private company, but now I come to write I have started to wonder if SDS are the Royal Mail’s elite troops – the postal analogue of the SAS or SBS (SCS, of course, just sell sofas): it would certainly give new meaning to the phrase “Going Postal” (and Pat has clearly qualified as a chopper pilot – though, in the episode of which I saw a part, he did not mention whether he had any fondness for the pre-lunch aroma of napalm).  But, perhaps I’m letting my imagination run away with me…

Then, this last Sunday, I was watching a recording I had made of a BBC4 documentary (no surprise there) on Sir Flinders Petrie (any relation to Ed, I wonder?  Though I’ll admit there was no mention of Oucho), the father of the science of archaeology and mostly good egg (though did have a rather dodgy attachment to the then fashionable idea of eugenics).  When the programme finished playing, the TV dropped back to showing ITV1 HD and so I caught a brief glimpse of Midsummer Murders (which at least maintained the dodgy eugenics theme).  This was showing a scene in which a chap dressed as a postman walked from what looked like a post van to someone’s front door.  However, neither the man nor the van showed the much loved Royal Mail brand – no, instead, mail services in Midsummer had clearly been privatised and were now run by Express Mail.

It seems the under-5s, their parents and the readership of the Daily Mail (and Mein Kampf) have already been prepared for the great Post Office sale: who’s next?  And whose head appears on the stamps in Greendale and Midsummer?  If the mail is no longer royal, presumably the Queen will have been evicted and replaced by the CEO of the new owners. It won’t be the same – though given the much higher turnover at the top of most companies (at least compared to the recent monarchy) it may provide a boost to Philatelists, so I’m off to buy shares in Stanley Gibbons…


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