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Vince Cable's real postal agenda

From Cable's standpoint there is nothing stupid about this sell-off.

Communication Workers Union general secretary Billy Hayes is correct to sum up privatisation as essentially about greed.

But he is wrong to characterise Business Secretary Vince Cable as making "one of the stupidest mistakes in politics on privatising Royal Mail."

From Cable's standpoint there is nothing stupid about this sell-off.

He, like Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws, is a member of the Liberal Democrats' Orange Book group of fanatical neoliberals.

Where the CWU leader, his members, two-thirds of the general public and organisations as disparate as the TUC, the Women's Institute, the Countryside Alliance and the Tory Party Bow Group oppose privatisation on grounds of efficiency, value for money and guaranteed universal service obligation, Cable and company favour it on dogmatic grounds.

The Liberal Democrat leaders and their Tory cohorts cannot see the point of any organisation existing if no-one derives private profit from it.

The vista of a successful public company providing employment, using cutting-edge technology to improve services to consumers and delivering hundreds of millions of pounds annually to the exchequer is, for them, nothing to celebrate.

And make no mistake, Royal Mail has developed into an extremely successful company, despite the regular ritual whines that it needs private-sector input to improve.

Compare its record with that of previously privatised rivals TNT and Deutsche Post in terms of price, profit and service to the public. Royal Mail wins hands down.

And its results would have been even more striking but for rigged liberalisation where private outfits are allowed to skim profits through contracts with big business to part-sort bulk postings before dumping them at Royal Mail sorting offices for household delivery.

No government could impose such a compulsory profit-sharing scheme on a private company, but anything goes to milk Royal Mail.

For coalition ministers and their City backers, profitable organisations should be in the private sector where a tiny minority of the population can cream off all the benefits.

That's why the confirmation that the Business Secretary, advised by the merchant bankers that have made a killing out of every privatisation, has sold Royal Mail at a billion-pound-plus discount will horrify most people but will not bother Cable.

Far more important is that the insurance companies, hedge funds and every other rodent speculator gets their hands on our postal service and their hands are indeed the final destination for our jointly owned assets.

The coalition government attempts to make a virtue of the scale of the demand for Royal Mail shares, with around 700,000 people seeking to jump on the gravy train.

Royal Mail currently belongs to all 63.7 million people who live in Britain and Northern Ireland, so privatisation will actually deprive 63m people of their common inheritance.

That has been the story with all the so-called people's privatisations over the past three decades when huge publicly owned corporations, with assets accrued over generations, were sold off cheaply.

Initial numbers of private shareholders have tumbled as individuals cash in their windfall profits and the City leviathans tighten their grip on companies that we once owned in common.

CWU members are balloting on strike action and should be fully supported.

But the labour movement and all opponents of privatisation should also maintain pressure on Labour to demand that, on returning to government, it renationalise Royal Mail at no greater cost than privatisation delivered.


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