Will the 'Prince of Darkness' take a hammer to the Post Office?


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The Independent Online

Will the smiling staff splattered across the Post Office’s annual report still be smiling after reading about their new chairman?

Probably not. Tim Parker has a reputation as a corporate thug. He once infamously turned up in a Porsche to sack workers at a factory during a stint at the AA, a move that led him to be dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” by unions.

Given the crassness of such behaviour, that’s actually quite mild. They would have been entirely justified in using rather more Anglo Saxon language about him, as some of the workers he sacked no doubt did.

Of course, you can see the reason behind his appointment. The Government has made certain demands of the Post Office relating to the provision of and access to rural branches. But it also wants to cut costs at a time when the advance of online services is reducing demand.

All this means that it is trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Now there are various ways you can do that. You can tweak your commitments. You can add a bit of oil to the mechanism. You can get creative by incorporating a bit of both. Or you can hire a hammer.

Forcing things with the latter usually ends up breaking them. But it is a depressingly common approach in both government and business, which is why people like Mr Parker so often end up getting appointed to roles like this.

The stark reality is that the Government is asking the Post Office for the impossible, and deep down it probably knows it. However, a bit of fire and cost-cutting brimstone from Mr Parker might rather serve to distract attention from that.