Belfast Telegraph

Sorry Vince, a private Royal Mail won't deliver same feelgood factor

By Gail Walker

News that the Royal Mail is to be privatised really does make me feel like, er, sounding the last post.

Talk all you want about the efficiency of privatised companies, and Vince Cable can promise that we won't notice a thing, but we know it's not true. It never is.

The very idea of the Royal Mail conjures warm childhood images. A letter – that most romantic artefact – delivered by a whistling postie, keeping an eye out for pensioners on his rounds, pausing only to shake a comically ferocious dog from his leg.

From Ballybogey to Lisnakea, we were united by a promise, not from a politician, but by the state itself. Stick on a stamp bearing the Queen's head and HM herself would see that your missive reached its destination on time, come rain, storm or heatwave. 'This is the night train crossing the border...'

What's not to like? For lefties, it's a nationalised industry, for those of a conservative strip, a concrete demonstration of 'Britishness'. And throw in Postman Pat ...

Of course, the reality isn't half as cosy. You write letters these days? As if. The only things on your doormat are junk mail, reminders from the bank charging you for this reminder, and a corpse the cat's dragged in. If it wasn't for Amazon ...

No, it's letters late, deliveries at random times, costly 'guaranteed' delivery services.

Still, enough's enough. We've very few expressions left of our essential unity as a people. (Leave the Troubles to one side for a second).

I mean, what do we have as symbols of something other than the drive for money? The Army? Even if we don't support the war in question, we all support our boys. Beyond that? The BBC – too PC, the viewing experience too fragmented in our digital age. The police? Stories of efficiency drives that leave our streets as fair game to thugs. Even the halo surrounding the NHS is slipping. Parliament? Regarded by most as a den of spivs.

So what's left? The postie. Every working day he or she is on their rounds, bringing news from the outside world.

Somehow an employee of a private company – even if Vince Cable is right about essential services not changing – won't carry that same gravitas, goodwill or feeling that life involves each and every one of us.

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