Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has argued for the Royal Mail to be brought back into public ownership and warned that the Post Office is under increasing threat.
He won loud applause from delegates at the annual conference of the Communication Workers Union with a passionate defence of keeping post offices open and defending the universal postal service.
"The best thing would be for Royal Mail and the Post Office to be brought back together in public ownership, not the system of ownership we have at present."
Mr Corbyn said the Post Office seemed to be under increasing threat, as more branches were franchised, hitting rural communities and access to services for older people as well as terms and conditions of workers.
Postal workers were the "lifeblood" of communities, regarded as a friend, he said, adding: Ïf we lose it and it breaks up and have fewer High Street post offices, we have lost something that pioneers fought for.
"The bean-counters in our Government don't realise the human aspect of the Post Office."
Mr Corbyn said Labour would defend the universal service obligation, under which letters are delivered anywhere in the country for the same price, and would repeal the controversial Trade Union Bill which imposes a threshold on strike ballots and other reforms to the way unions operate.
He was applauded by delegates when he said that Labour in government had not done enough to repeal anti-union legislation.
He announced that Labour's Workplace 2020 commission will be launched in the summer, aimed at developing employment-related policies ahead of the next general election.
Party members and supporters will be urged to take part in wide-ranging consultations, he said.
He attacked the Government's austerity programme and said the economy needed investment, especially in affordable housing, underpinned by strong trade union rights.
Next week's local elections were an opportunity to send a message to the Government that people will not tolerate cuts to care for the elderly or schools being forced to become academies, he said.
Mr Corbyn described himself as a lifetime trade unionist, saying he wanted union members to feel welcome in the Labour Party.