Did you hear about the compelling case put to the public for Royal Mail privatisation?

No, neither did I.

This depressing development, primed by New Labour, is scheduled to happen by next year, and yet no referendum is offered to the public who have paid for it all these years. Despite the plethora of evidence that privatised public services actually tend to make a much worse service for the end user i.e. the taxpayer, some are obviously willing to give this a chance. The problem is that post is an absolutely integral service for the country. Just because you personally may rarely send letters any more, and may prefer not to receive bills or junk mail does not alter the fact that many small businesses may go under if the costs of sending and receiving mail increases significantly. And why wouldn’t it? After all, Royal Mail, as a public service, does not need to do more than break even on costs, which is why it has been such an institution for so long. Remote, rural areas which will become completely unprofitable to a profit-chasing company, have been served diligently by Royal Mail. Why would a company who need to squeeze every penny out of their chargeable service bother with sending delivery men out to secluded outposts on Isles or Moors, unless there are prohibitively higher charges for certain addresses?

I recently read a worrying article about the Netherlands, who privatised their State postal service in 1989, blazing something of a trail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1353811/Think-post-bad-Heres-soon-worse.html

Of course, the major reason that the service is proven to decline is obvious. As Royal Mail employees, the staff had pensions and secure employment, with rounds they knew well and could efficiently cover. A private interest would no doubt cut all costs, meaning a lot of temporary staff paid peanuts, who, as has been stated in the article, will sometimes just dump post wherever and collect their money. Temporary staff have no job security, but also little fear of reprisals for poor performance, as their retention is never guaranteed in any scenario.

This story speaks volumes about the ideologically-blinded treachery of today’s Neoliberal political elite, as well as their chums in the media. Hardly a day goes past without us reading of some pig in the trough proposing for the umpteenth time that the answer to our woes is to cut more: regulations and corporation tax. Yet we get very little balance. I can’t remember reading any major article anywhere near the front page proposing a renationalising of UK water, and yet a recent poll indicated that 71% of the general public would support this. Oh wait, I did read a major story about Union bosses ‘demanding’ Labour renationalise Royal Mail or they would withdraw party donations. So the only time a left-wing perspective is presented as a major story, it is implied to be blackmail. Dr Liam Fox, a man who compromised national security by inviting his little chum along for his military sojourns without clearance, is regularly quoted spewing his nonsensical Thatcherite bile, and presented as some kind of voice of reason. Yet Union bosses are still portrayed as ‘holding the country to ransom’. Anyone would think the 1970s never ended.

And in some ways, they don’t appear to have. After all, when renationalisation is proposed in any form, we are magically transported back to the 1970s: Winter of Discontent; 3 day week; ruthless Union Barons; three weeks to connect a telephone line etc etc. But the media only invoke the 70s when it comes to the negatives. We won’t hear anything about the affluence of even working-class families outstripping anything their families knew since the war, nor income inequality being at a level that would only get progressively worse.

The truth is our national media consensus, still led by the repugnant Rupert Murdoch, will not allow for a rational discussion of nationalisation. The political elite’s agenda has been clear since Thatcher for publically owned services:

1) Run down public services by starving them of funds (NHS) or partially privatising (NHS, Royal Mail), allowing businesses to cream off the profitable services, leaving a bigger bill for the taxpayer to pick up for the less profitable provision.

2) Declare that the service must be ‘modernised’ to survive, or similar corporate buzzwords, as public disenchantment with failing service grows.

3) Hold no public consultation, but sell off asset to corporate friend, for a mysteriously discounted price. See no protests from Taxpayers Alliance, despite taxpayers having paid for all infrastructure, and, in the case of the railways, paying higher cost for subsidies long into the future, as well as much higher user fares.

4) Rest safe in the knowledge that when you are eventually voted out, you can shamelessly join new service in some well-remunerated executive or consultancy role, only now with no accountability for poor service or excessive charges.

Another weapon in the war against nationalisation is that the only major nationalisation in the last two decades was the most disastrous and unpopular ever: the bank bail-out. This cements in the mind of the ignorant the notion that, despite privatisation’s many epic failures, nationalisation is a terrible alternative.

With this dumbed down rationale, is it any wonder we never seem to hear any remotely socially democratic alternatives to the corporate-sponsored Neoliberal orgy we are STILL being subjected to?

In 2016, our publically-owned mail service would have celebrated 500 years of service. Yet another proud institution thrown to the wolves at the altar of private greed.

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