The same political forces that ask us to believe in the Union are the ones that are shredding Britain of the only civic institutions that would make that concept viable, public realm bodies such as the National Health Service, the Royal Mail and the education bodies are being broken down and sold off. As Eddie Barnes pointed out here there is a growing disparity to this approach North and South of the Border.
John Pilger in his latest piece for the New Statesman offers an acute observation on the wider context of the postal strike:
“The postal workers struggle is as vital for democracy as any national event in recent years. The campaign against them is part of a historic shift from the last vestiges of political democracy in Britain to a corporate world of insecurity and war. If the privateers running the Post Office are allowed to win, the regression that now touches all lives bar the wealthy will quicken its pace. A third of British children now live in low-income or impoverished families. One in five young people is denied hope of a decent job or education.
And now the Brown government is to mount a fire sale of public assets and services worth £16bn. Unmatched since Margaret Thatcher’s transfer of public wealth to a new gross elite, the sale, or theft, will include the Channel Tunnel rail link, bridges, the student loan bank, school playing fields, libraries and public housing estates. The plunder of the National Health Service and public education is already under way.
The common thread is adherence to the demands of an opulent, sub-criminal minority exposed by the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and of the City of London, now rescued with hundreds of billions in public money and still unregulated with a single stringent condition imposed by the government. Goldman Sachs, which enjoys a personal connection with the Prime Minister, is to give employees record average individual pay and bonus packages of £500,000. The Financial Times now offers a service called How to Spend It.” Read the full piece here.
Guest writer Ray Bell writing for Bella here offers a personal account of dealings with the private service alternatives:
Another day, another strike. But there is one that particularly strikes a chord with me. Not because I wish to be some trendy lefty jumping on yet another bandwagon, but because in the case of the postal strike, there are some pretty serious issues at stake. Thing is, whatever our misgivings about the Royal Mail – the “Royal” part being one of them perhaps – the alternatives are far far worse. The postal service is already heavily mutilated by cuts from successive Tory and Labour administrations, and by EU “competition” laws. The Post Office has been asset stripped to disastrous effect, and we can’t blame the posties for fearing the same will happen to the Royal Mail.
For one, the traditional service keeps the economy going in rural Scotland, in parts of the country where it is difficult enough to earn a living, where people do much of their shopping online or through catalogues, or perhaps run a mail order firm themselves. But it’s simply not “economic” to deliver out to these areas, let alone to our many island communities. If the metropolitan axe falls, I suspect that there will be some kind of poste restante system for anyone choosing to live more than a few miles outside a major urban centre. Given the lack of public transport in these areas, and the high cost of petrol, it is hard to see how most of Scotland would survive. This is one more reason that we should support the strike – Labour’s plans will not just cost postal jobs.
Like I say, the alternatives are worse, and I had the misfortune to experience one of them a few weeks ago. I’ve had dealings with the likes of DHL in the past, and my experiences were not positive. Since my birthday was coming up, when I received a Home Delivery Network card through the door, I naturally assumed someone was sending me a present. The card had a premium rate telephone number on it, which connected me to a machine (!), and then I had to punch in my delivery code, and desired delivery date.
When the day came, I waited from eight in the morning until three in the afternoon, at which point I asked my elderly neighbour if she’d be kind enough to take it in for me. Of course, the next day, when I asked her, she told me nothing had arrived. And so I rang that premium rate number again, and talked to an operator who refused to give me any details unless I could give her the “correct company name”. And the call was also “recorded for training purposes”. So far so Kafka. The card said nothing about where the local depot was, but after some effort I managed to get those details off her.
The Edinburgh depot turned out to be over a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop, far out beyond the city airport, in the middle of Newbridge Industrial Estate in West Lothian. While out there, I counted at least four other delivery firms, all to be reached by roads with muddy verges and no pavements. When we reached there, a couple of workers sifted through paperwork and several crates, eventually telling me that the parcel had been delivered. It wasn’t even for me. Or for my street! It was for an after-school club. The journey back was as complicated, involving a forty minute wait for a bus.
For all of the Labour and Conservative hypocritical “carbon” posturing, it seems that they and the other large parties go out of their way to promote sprawling out of town developments, whether retail, industrial or commercial. Many shops are simply priced out of city centres, or squeezed out by various supermarket chains. The privatisation agenda is set by their corporate party donors, but will never sit well with their supposed environmentalism, or with public service, or with small business and the public sector. I could have reached that depot easily with a car, but I didn’t, since I don’t have one right now. But the question is why it was it in such a place to begin with.
If this is a glimpse of Peter Mandelson’s postal future, I don’t want it.* I may be being sentimental here, but I prefer my mail delivered to my door by someone who is paid a fair wage. I think most folk do. For that, I’m willing to put up with the short term nuisance of a postal strike, rather than the long term dismantling of yet another public service.
* Bizarrely, Peter Mandelson was recently included in The Times’ list of the “top 100 most influential left wingers”, along with Alan “you’re fired” Sugar. Perhaps someone reading this blog can tell us which mind altering substance(s) the compiler was using at the time!