Labour has backed proposals to part privatise the postal service. The Hooper report claims that private companies will provide "confidence, experience and capital" - qualities I take it Labour feels are currently lacking whilst the service in the government's hands?
The post workers' union the CWU (which is still affiliated to the Labour Party) rightly attacked the moves as the herald of full blown privatisation;
Dave Ward, deputy general secretary, said: "There is no need to seek private funding from outside companies in a joint venture. This would open the floodgates for full-blown, damaging privatisation. Post is a key public and business service which must retain the protection and guidance of Government for sustainable success."Which is a far better statement than that of Billy Hayes (CWU General Sec.) who seems obsessed by foreign companies. Eye on the ball here please Billy, it's not that they're foreign it's that they're private companies seeking to make a profit out of public services. The TUC is able to denounce this without going on about foreigners after all.
You'd expect the Tories to approve, and they do, and the Lib Dems are out painting postboxes but don't seem to have anything to say on this (I did look), it seems the key Parliamentary opposition is going to come from within the Labour Party which will probably only serve to further disorientate the unions.
The CWU is one organisation that has a strong rank and file tradition and its members (although not necessarily its hierarchy) have certainly been a conservative block which is why the post, for all it's faults, stands head and shoulders above the other public utilities and transport systems that were shoved out into the private sector.
For instance, 2,000 post workers are striking later in the week over office closures (in Liverpool, Coventry, Stockport, Oxford, Crewe and Bolton) something that any worker will find common cause with in a time of economic crisis - where they going to work? Woolies? (update: the strike's been called off.)
The government's line appears to be that the service is not making money, although whether the lack of profitability was management's fault or the government's is open to question. Mind you there's no doubt that management are incompetent, between simply telling posties to walk faster and adopting stupid marketing gimmicks that they immediately reverse there's clearly dead wood there - but if anyone thinks that privatisation will end the culture of rewarding backward incompetents, then surely the bonus packages across the land's boardrooms should give them pause for thought.
The advances of 1945 need to be defended as we're pushed deeper and deeper into the arms of an unreliable, undemocratic and uncaring private sector. With all these attacks on welfare claimants, wars, and privatisations I often find myself thinking "what we need is a Labour government" and then have to pinch myself in horror as I realise that's exactly what we've got.