Royal Mail has had a difficult few years, most of it self-inflicted. One of Britain’s most popular companies has transformed itself into the Christmas Grinch. It’s seen as unreliable, too expensive, and with a management that appears to delight in scrapping with its employees.
The departure of its former chief executive, Simon Thompson, earlier in the year has so far failed to restore its fortunes. Just this week, we have read accusations that Royal Mail bosses have told sorting depots to prioritise parcels over delivering letters and Christmas cards, despite the fact that it is illegal to do so. (Royal Mail has denied that this is their policy.)
There was a time I used to send upwards of 200 Christmas cards to family, friends and business contacts. Last year I sent fewer than 20 and this year it will be half that. I still send some cards to aged relatives and friends who would be mortally offended if they didn’t receive their traditional card, but otherwise I simply refuse to pay £1.25 for a first class stamp. That’s double what it cost when the company was privatised by Lib-Dem ministers Vince Cable and Ed Davey.
It is a privatisation that has been an utter disaster. It shouldn’t have been. It needn’t have been. But the company’s management has proved incapable of competing with parcel delivery firms like Evri, or innovating to provide new, reliable services. Its reputation for reliability has been shot to pieces and its employment practices have managed to get even Right-of-centre commentators like me to side with the trade union in its long-running, but now thankfully settled, strike-ridden dispute with Royal Mail.
And now on top of all that, Royal Mail are seeking to penalise festive cheer by imposing a “peak surcharge” on all letters sent over the Christmas period. Who do they think they are? Uber? What a way to discourage more letter sending. It’s as if they have a permanent subcommittee whose remit is designed to think of ways they can wind up already very angry customers even more.
So in lieu of a Christmas card, this year I shall send emails with a Christmassy graphic inserted into it. Thank God for the internet. And I will donate what I would have spent on cards to charity, so they don’t lose out.
Perhaps one day the Royal Mail board will wake up to the fact that in public affections they now rank alongside P&O Ferries. It really needn’t be this way.
Rishi’s management woes
Like Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, I’m afraid Rishi Sunak is close to losing the dressing room. It’s been a pretty disastrous week for our prime minister, with the Rwanda scheme playing into a growing view that the “nasty party” is well and truly back, and the much hoped for return of competent government dashed by utterly unnecessary rows, internecine battles and a reappearance of leadership speculation.
This is where the Manchester United analogy comes to grief. The Red Devils can (and surely will) dispose of Ten Hag’s services sooner or later, but that option is not available to the Tories. They’re stuck with Sunak, whatever some of the more imaginative newspaper columnists might have you believe.
Yesterday, we were told with a straight face that there is a serious plan being hatched to ditch Sunak and replace him with a dual leadership of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Yes, really. Delusional doesn’t even cover it.
The Tories have made their bed, and however uncomfortable it gets, they will have to lie in it. The “stupid party”, as Disraeli once called it, is surely intelligent enough to realise that yet another leadership change would just provoke laughter and derision.
Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, is becoming a one man think tank. He seemingly delights in “thinking the unthinkable” and then saying it in public, no matter who he upsets in the process. First it was upsetting GPs by suggesting they should lose their independent status. He’s now suggested that the NHS must stop using the annual winter health crisis as a cash cow, extorting more money from the taxpayer. He’s becoming so controversial that some on the Left regard him as a Tory sleeper. Agent Wes, they call him.
They should grow up. He’s one of the few stars on the Labour front bench and a rare example of a politician who can connect with ordinary voters, apparently an unforgivable quality for some of his “colleagues”.
Judge not by the cover
I sometimes despair of book reviewers. Half the time they appear not to have read a word of the book they are supposedly critiquing, and often, instead of reviewing the book, they write about the awfulness of the author.
Take Nadine Dorries’ book, The Plot. The reviewers claim it’s a badly written flight of fancy. It isn’t. Having read every word I can honestly say that while on occasion she overstates her case, it’s well researched, full of revealing interviews and horrifying anecdotes, many of which I can verify myself. I’m not saying I agree with all of her conclusions, but if you want to learn about how Boris Johnson governed and fell, this book is indispensable.