Leading article: Mandelson's counter-productive tone

Share
Related Topics

There was always a worry in Labour circles that the Prime Minister's rehabilitation of Peter Mandelson might have "consequences", and that any value the party gained from his brilliant mind might be outweighed by his divisive qualities. Those fears will have been reinforced by the Business Secretary's acerbic attacks at the weekend on opponents of his plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail, during which he accused the unions of resorting to "scare tactics".

The debate on the Royal Mail is now in danger of becoming so polarised between pros and antis that any possible advantages deriving from the sale of 30 per cent of the Post Office will be lost in the heat of battle. The Bill has thus turned into a litmus test of government authority.

To dismiss all opponents of the sale as Luddites, and to maintain that there is no alternative to privatisation, strikes an anachronistic, Thatcherite tone. It sounds especially odd when the axiom that "markets know best" has never looked so weak.

At the same time, Lord Mandelson's insistence that the Royal Mail cannot carry on as it is now is incontrovertible. Its pension plan is hugely indebted, to the tune of £9bn, its service is less efficient those that of its European counterparts, while its traditional core activity, the delivery of letters six days a week, is constantly undermined by the growing level of communication by email.

With the support of Gordon Brown, the Business Secretary insists the sale of less than a third of the Royal Mail is not a first stage towards full privatisation, and that a combination of a substantial cash injection from a foreign buyer, alongside an assumption of responsibility on the Government's part for the pension deficit, is the right way to rescue a failing industry.

Beyond accusing the Government of concealing its real agenda, unions and other opponents have yet to come up with a convincing alternative to what Lord Mandelson proposes.

But with its communications with unions and backbench MPs in disarray, it may be too late for the Government to avoid a mini-civil war over the future of Royal Mail. That would be a pity, as it would only mark the victory of ideological rancour over common sense.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser