Saturday 20 January 2024

Universal, Service, Obligation

Half a billion pounds in public subsidy to Tata Steel, for it to cut 2800 jobs at Port Talbot and turn the place into a glorified recycling centre. Steel should be in public ownership, and nothing should receive a public subsidy without at least some public shareholding and board level representation, for the exercise of which the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the relevant Secretary of State should be accountable to the House of Commons. Any eventual dividend should be divided equally among the holders of all National Insurance numbers. But if something would go bust without public money, then obviously it should be in public ownership outright.

That brings us to the railways. If they can stage the Great British Rail Sale, then these publicly dependent companies, several of which are in fact foreign states as such, have clearly been overcharging, and will do so again in a few weeks' time. They often do it to keep fares low at home. Now look up the shareholder base of the Royal Mail, from which the Post Office was hived off because, as long ago as 2011, the whole City knew about Horizon and would have refused to have bought the Royal Mail in its complete form, or to have handled the sale.

The proposed scrapping of Saturday deliveries has nothing to do with the protection of workers, who have not been consulted. Rather, it is the beginning of the end of the Universal Service Obligation. There was a reason why, as with coal and the railways, Margaret Thatcher ruled out the privatisation of the Royal Mail. No, it was not that she just never got round to them. She explicitly ruled out each of them, on grounds that still stand up to scrutiny.

The EU banned the renationalisation of the rail service, and it required the privatisation of the postal service. But we have left the EU. It is tempting to say "Ha! Ha! Ha!" to The Economist and The Spectator, which would be in very serious trouble if Saturday postal deliveries were to be discontinued as a consequence of their beloved globalisation, privatisation and deregulation; there is in practice no regulator if the titular office-holder can allow this. But I am well into the process of setting up a magazine to which the same would apply, and it would give a very different voice to a far larger number of people.

The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all have the records in office to confirm their commitment to this collapsing system as unquestionable. But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.


  1. Peter Hitchens on Twitter today reminds us of the importance of our constitutional monarchy as an absolute safeguard against state tyranny. Almost all of the world’s oldest continuously free and law-governed democracies-Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom-are constitutional monarchies, and not by coincidence. The only time we briefly abolished ours (in the 17th century) was also the only time we ever had a military dictatorship, and not by coincidence. And when Italy abolished its constitutional monarchy in the 20th century, it was immediately replaced with a fascist dictatorship, and not by coincidence. Etc etc.

    Peter Hitchens @ClarkeMicah @sequi_simon Constitutional monarchies, as a rule, lack torture chambers, secret police and extermination camps, and their cattle trucks are reserved for the transport of cattle”

    1. It didn't save the Royal Mail. Like all British monarchists, he spends the rest of his time complaining that the things that that the monarchy is supposed to "safeguard" are not there. But the republican arguments are also rubbish in their own terms, so the case for change has not been made.

  2. “the whole City knew about Horizon”

    Provide a shred of evidence for that allegation. Oh, I forgot, you’re a blogger. They don’t need evidence.

    1. Touchy.

      Vince Cable's filleting of the Royal Mail is explicable only by the fact that as long ago as 2011, the whole City knew about the Horizon scandal, and would therefore have refused to have bought the Post Office or to have handled its sale. Explain it any other way.

  3. “It didn't save the Royal Mail“

    What? His post, and mine, had nothing to do with privatisation but with the fact we have never had a dictatorship as long as we’ve had a constitutional monarchy (unlike the republics all over the continent).