i Editor's Letter: Royal Mail's “universal service obligation”


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There isn’t any profit in delivering a birthday card from Aberdeen to Brownsea Island. But Royal Mail has only been private seven months and already it whinges about having to deliver to all corners of the UK – its “universal service obligation”.

That commitment does, it is true, disadvantage Royal Mail against rivals such as TNT, who can cherry-pick lucrative delivery routes in cities like Liverpool and Manchester.  Amazon, which makes up six per cent of Royal Mail’s parcel business, is launching its own seven-day service. Each competitor nibbles at the profits that subsidise that pan-Britain delivery. Tough: the universal obligation must stay. Announcing record profits, chief executive Moya Greene prepared the ground for a fight with Ofcom over the universal commitment. Expect more in the next fortnight.


Guessing election results is foolish, since every party spends the days before a poll trying to lower expectations, briefing journalists that they expect to lose big. We can be fairly confident, though, that the British National Party is about to be voted out of office and lose its seat in the European Parliament.

Hopefully that sole MEP, Nick Griffin, will disappear beneath the rock whence he came. I interviewed him nine years ago when he was standing in the general election. He  said then that people should “stop pretending” that humans were not inherently racist and could live peacefully in multi-racial societies, and that he longed for there to be “about 10,000 non-whites in the whole of the country. It would be far better”. In Mr Griffin’s case, biologists finally learn that evolution can reverse direction. The rest of us – and British politics – move on.