The Labour right-wing still doesn’t get it

Let’s face it, the New Labour cabal, the right-wing of the party and the ‘power at all costs’ sections of the Labour Party (often they are one and the same) just do not want Jeremy Corbyn or his socialism. They’ve tried every dirty trick in the book and according to their official spiel he is ‘an honest man, but just not leadership material’.

Okay then, working on that assumption, it clearly does not occur to the Labour right that the answer to the question is: another leader who embodies everything Jeremy Corbyn stands for; all the things that are the reason so many people have made an effort to support him. Of course there have been claims from all quarters claiming that this person or that person actually believes in all the same basic things Jeremy Corbyn believes, which if true makes you wonder why they so urgently need to replace him.

Do they just think he’s the wrong figurehead or is it really the policy they hate? Because they also keep making digs about ‘the politics of last century’ and ‘a dated approach’ etc etc. Unfortunately for them the ‘politics of last century’ is the real core of Labour. It is also the real core of right-wing politics too because despite the giddy excitement about the advent of broadband internet and accelerated globalisation, the gritty local problems of last century have not gone away. If people take the trouble to remove their PR-drenched media goggles for a moment they’ll see that things like the 21st century job market bears an uncanny basic resemblance to the pre-WW2 job market. Casual labour, work uncertainty, no real contracts, poor or non-existent sick pay, companies shirking employee welfare issues, suppression of organisation and industrial action through negative PR. Oh it’s a long list.

All of this disintegration of rights and conditions built up over 150 years – part of that including the foundation of the Labour Party to uphold these very values and achievements – has also occurred and been accelerated under Labour governments. Select representatives keep popping up on telly repeating that New Labour introduced the minimum wage, something they failed to implement in every previous Labour administration. Big deal. It didn’t stop the growth of zero-hour contracts or other capitalist trickery to bend the rules. New Labour homed-in on that little policy (of offering working-age people not much more than a fiver per hour) to cover the fact that they had no plan to offer any other traditional Labour Party policy and a master plan to cut loose with a host of neo-liberal shenanigans, which is exactly what happened. Then a crash and depression happened and a lot of people lost patience with the same old lies.

Unfortunately it took that economic crash to shake awake a good portion of the people who are sympathetic to what Corbyn represents and also created enough discontent to prevent the bigwigs at the top of the Labour Party from dismissing it as ‘fringe elements’ and carrying on unabated with the New Labour debacle.

On Saturday morning (that’s later on this morning), if the polls are correct, Corbyn is going to sweep Owen Smith and his cheerleaders into obscurity. If we are to believe the anti-Corbyn offensive he is also going to also sweep the Labour Party into obscurity. Well we’ll see. He’s the one calling for unity, they are the ones predicting collapse. It’s because they’ve fully absorbed and adopted the New Labour/right-wing economic rhetoric that social justice and national prosperity is achieved through deregulated market capitalism, privatisation, austerity for poor people etc ad nauseum. Jeremy Corbyn, or what he represents, is the backlash to all that. They still don’t get it.

 

Res incipit: The coup against Corbyn

It was always predictable. As I wrote when Corbyn was elected, it would only be a matter of time before the coup would take place and the aftermath of Brexit was the opportune moment. He managed a year at least, though with a constant barrage of both internal and external criticism it is amazing it lasted so long. It has to be admitted that the ministers Corbyn appointed did a fine, Oscar-worthy job of pretending to be supportive and perhaps lulled even Jeremy into believing that they were behind the alternative politics he wanted to usher-in last summer.

There are two Labour parties within the ‘Labour Party’, but the chasm has grown and it is the rubble left over from New Labour who seem to believe they are the legitimate party and that Jeremy Corbyn is a throwback who ended up in his present position through a freak accident. Corbyn’s Supporters (especially Momentum) are of the opposite opinion that it is the New Labourites who were always the infiltrators (let’s just call them ‘traitors’ for short) and who divorced the party from its core values and its history as the party of the working masses and the downtrodden and the party of social justice. Of course the New Labourites also claim to represent those values, even though they abolished clause 4 and wholeheartedly embraced fat-cat capitalism and the dirty politics that goes hand-in-hand with it.

David Cameron was revelling in Corbyn’s misery at the despatch box today. Piling on the blame for the Brexit vote (even though he was the one who both promised and initiated the referendum). Clearly he enjoyed kicking a man when he is down. “For heaven’s sake, man. Go!” Cameron bellowed from the despatch box, as his allies in the recently-retired Labour cabinet no doubt cheered him on. Easy words from a man who let the Europe vote slip away by not succinctly pointing out that his associates (Johnson, Gove, Duncan-Smith) told lies about Brexit funds being put into the NHS (something canny voters ought to have been able to work out themselves). Cameron himself has never been completely accepted by his own party – seen as a centrist by the more right-wing elements of the Tory rabble. He slipped into governance and Premiership on the back of a hung parliament and then a scraped though for his current tenure. This man is a fraud.

The Labour traitors may have begun their coup, but they are kneecapped by the same system that helped get Jeremy Corbyn elected the first time around. That, along with the large amount of mainstream support  Corbyn has among the wider party membership, may leave them looking like fools for a second time. Angela Eagle should have saved those crocodile tears because it might not be believable the second time around. And yet… what is the point of a leader with a large mandate when he is surrounded by people who won’t serve in a cabinet under him? The stage is set for some interesting developments.

Brexit: PR lies from the vote leave campaign

Whatever your thoughts are on whether Britain should vote to leave or remain in the EU, they are never helped by cheap propaganda lies. A pity then that both sides have employed fear tactics in the run up to the 23rd of June.

Today’s helping from the Leave camp comes in the form of a highly spurious political broadcast employing the lowest of low tactics: portraying the NHS as spiralling into a third-world service if the UK chooses to remain in the EU. That’s right. It’s not the lack of money due to corporate (and not so corporate) tax dodging or the running down of the service through marketisation policies and the drive to entirely privatise the NHS. None of these are to blame for the pressure on the NHS, it is merely the fact that the UK is still a member of the EU. Sure it is.

Cue a pathetic split screen presentation: one half – in the EU – with under-staffing and tired clinicians, long queues, full waiting rooms and terrified patients; the other screen – out of the EU – with full staffing, happy clinicians and patients and well-lit, sparsely occupied, relaxed waiting rooms.

This argument was always going to be presented by the Leave campaign, but it is fairly surprising that so many people seem willing to buy it. Even in the ‘good’ years of the late 1990s and early 2000s the Blair governments preferred to waste existing money elsewhere rather than put it into the NHS. They encouraged and never pursued massive tax avoidance and evasion and preferred to use private companies to build hospitals, piling a debt upon the taxpayer in the process. The coalition government had no special love for the NHS either and the Tory government is hammering in its wedge for preparing full privatisation.

Keep this in mind: even if the UK pulled out of the EU and saved several trillion pounds in the process (not a proven argument), don’t ever expect this to go into a social housing building plan or to the NHS or to anything that qualifies as social provision. The governments, and the individuals and organisations driving their policy, are not favourably inclined toward tax-funded social provision, or in fact any social provision that isn’t run by private companies. There are two simple ways to predict how such money would be employed: the first is to look at how existing funds are spent; the second is to look at existing policy and the ideological position that sustains it. No-one can make a convincing argument that pulling out of the EU with a view to saving money to fund the NHS (or any other social organisation) worth taking seriously, since these governments have routinely shown that they are determined to destroy them in this form.

Look at the people who are prominent in the ‘leave’ campaign and ask yourself if they really are shouting themselves hoarse because they believe in democracy, public services and social regeneration, or if they have other reasons.

Jeremy Corbyn won the battle, but now there is the war

Corbyn’s Cabinet

Despite a full month of cheap character assassination attempts (from right and the alleged left), Jeremy Corbyn blew away the ‘competition’ to take the Labour leadership. That’s the big news and there isn’t much left to do, but speculate because Corbyn has been pretty much tight-lipped since his victory. In a world of rolling 24-hour news this is a disaster and so as usual the television ‘journalists’ have been on one of the biggest speculation benders since September 11. They really have no idea what is going on and so they continue wheeling out crapshoot analysis and soundbites to pad out the thin reports and fill up airtime. It’s painful to watch and yet also infuriating. Every report is bathed in the same cynical, ‘realpolitik’ that proclaims: ‘Only the paradigm of post-Thatcher neo-liberalism is real, everything else is extremism and illusory’.

The newspapers have been doing the same and the most notable observation to be made is that  a portion of the mainstream left-liberal press now contains more of the worst shower of opportunistic bullshitters than the average PR boardroom. The Blairite acolytes are really foaming at the mouth. Their candidates were trounced and Nu Labour is being dropped into its long overdue grave. In the pages of the newspapers the spew of vitriol has congealed the Tory hacks and the Blairism hacks into one unsightly gob of phlegm. The Guardian in particular has shown its true colours. Its commentators may as well be leader writers for the Murdoch papers and yet they are being paid to write their garbage for an alleged social democratic newspaper. The Guardian is now a pathetic gravy train of middle-class chancers and must be regarded as such by all those whose political interests lie outside of the decayed paradigm that has dominated politics and economic policy for the last 35-40 years.

Perhaps the only remark worthy of consideration is that Corbyn’s leadership victory does not mean he is poised for national victory, perhaps not even easy victory within the party he now leads. The Labour Party at its top is no longer the Party of Clem Attlee; it’s not even that of Neil Kinnock. The parliamentary party is shot through with passive acceptance of Nu Labour Neo-Liberalism. There is a reason why many of those faces we’ve seen on the Labour front benches, over the last decade or so, have resigned. They thought socialism had died and now it has come back in the form of the new leader it makes them look too much like members of the Tory Party. Perhaps they are going to sit back and wait, hoping that ‘Corbynism’ will flounder and collapse, so they can eventually re-assume their positions, with a told-you-so smile upon their smug faces.

As Corbyn named his cabinet yesterday and today made his first appearance on the front benches in the Commons, the same old newspeak rubbish has been employed in every report. All his appointments are ‘left-wingers’ (a phrase heaped with pejorative implications) and they have ‘far left’ ideas and policies (as opposed to the obvious policies sensible people would have); mention of his shadow chancellor has to include that he ‘once vowed to overthrow capitalism’. In the Tory press the Labour Party now forms a ‘danger’ to the economy and society! The political orthodoxy, and most of the country, has now been dragged very far down the path of believing in a twisted ideology. One informing us that corporate capitalism, austerity, a free-for all in housing prices (with soaring rents and housing shortages); low wages, job insecurity, child poverty, gutted public services etc etc, is the new political norm. That it is inevitable and unavoidable and the politics that administers this poison is ‘good governance’. On Saturday a large portion of the Labour Party elbowed the Blairist usurpers aside and said no. They are not the entire country and certainly not the people voting Tory, Lib Dem or UKIP, but it is a seed that may grow, if it is nurtured.

Corbyn’s cabinet choices are far more diverse than the media hacks are pretending. At least two of the women in the top jobs did not back the new leader, yet he appointed them. There are in fact very few so-called ‘hard left Corbynites’ in this new cabinet. The media is, as usual, making a sensation out of something that merely contrasts with the usual grey cesspool of politics.  They can’t fight the fact that Corbyn is authentic and likeable as a person. He is not an expenses thief (his are fact amongst the lowest, if not the lowest) and his message is not wrapped in the usual clichéd political phraseology that seems to affect every major politician whose face appears in public. Corbyn’s real challenge will be convincing enough people that his democratic-socialist alternative – for the economy, for essential public services, for society as a whole – is a better, fairer and more progressive prospect than the politics of pandering to the super-rich and operating as an arm of the corporate boardroom (which is probably in a tax haven). If the ‘ordinary voter’, the people who really ‘feel the pinch’ and live from salary to salary as it is claimed a majority of people do, seek an alternative, then they have another choice. Convincing people to undo the cultural habits that have developed under neo-liberalism (debt-fuelled lifestyles, consumption greed), something which is also a necessity for such an alternative, is a tall order indeed.

Jeremy Corbyn: A very British coup?

Jeremy Corbyn

If age is not on your side you might well remember the 1982 novel by Chris Mullins to which this post’s title alludes. A solidly left-wing and principled leader of the Labour Party becomes prime minister and sets in motion a cabal of secret service agents, high-level mandarins and establishment aristocrats conspiring to plot his downfall.

Well…Jeremy Corbin isn’t quite that far, but he seems set to do a version of it within the Labour Party. Those ‘senior figures’ within Labour – like Harriet Harmon and most of Corbyn’s other current competitors –  rather shot themselves in the foot when they initiated the ‘open forum’ that allowed Jeremy Corbyn to be propelled into the front running position he now occupies. His core supporters are firmly rooted in the values of what is now called Old Labour, as a contrast to New Labour, that banal and mediocre media transformation atop the policy transformation that saw Blair and Co., shift the party firmly in line with dominant neo-liberal ideology. Whatever New Labour is supposed to represent its very existence attempts to drop the guillotine on the party’s prior history, declaring its entire raison d’etre to be outmoded and out of line with the politics (though in truth they mean the economic hegemony) of the modern world.

Jeremy Corbyn has taken to the podium to tell us that this is nonsense, and he has a lot of willing listeners. These are not just disgruntled old pre-Kinnock Labourites, they are young people too; those who may have voted for Blair in 1997, or who were too young to vote and really are ‘Blair’s children’. What they all share is the disillusionment produced from those three Labour governments that oversaw monumental lies leading to war, a near-complete hollowing-out of social infrastructure, financial corruption and ending ignominiously in financial meltdown. Not content with having presided over this, the very same repertory of rotating faces is now trying to pretend that they offer something different. These are people who served in Blair governments and were touted as the new faces of New Labour. The Blair coup fully integrated the view that there is one way to win elections (because this is all they care about) and that is to court plutocrats and media-moguls and rub-shoulders, in a friendly way, with the people and institutions that Labour as a party was created to moderate.

In his book Feeding Frenzy Will Self remarked that “Never before has style so fantastically glossed substance.” That was New Labour’s real legacy for politics, a media realignment achieved by a full-scale in-house demolition project. Instead of holding principles and damn the media, the line was taken that it is the media that wins an election. It is the media that shapes public opinion and any party seeking office has to be in line with the ideological interests that now saturate the corporate media. In 1997 it was tempting to believe that some sacrifice was worth it just to end Tory rule and perhaps undo at least some of the damage of their privatisation frenzy and corporate cronyism. Never was an electorate so misguided as in 1997.

In Chris Mullins’s book the protagonist is a character modelled upon Tony Benn who at the time had just lost the deputy leadership to Denis Healy (by 1%) and had come in fourth in the leadership contest of 1976. Like Corbyn now, Tony Benn was always popular with grass roots Labour activists, but his fate in terms of leadership positions shows just how difficult it is for a principled politician to secure the position that directs the party; let alone capture the wide support that leads to 10 Downing Street. Generation upon generation of the regular voting public has been persuaded that anyone like Tony Benn is ‘bad for business’ and business (specifically dancing to its tune) is really all that matters. Under this supposed home truth everything has to be sacrificed to market ideology, or in reality a hegemony of massive corporations, banking giants and other financial institutions who cajole and blackmail any government not following orders. More usually its representatives hop back and forth between boardroom and Westminster. Tony Benn kept his principles and eventually became a back bench ‘voice of reason’ and fierce critic. Jeremy Corbyn has already been a back bench voice of reason and fierce critic for some time, so it’s interesting to see his ascent.

Radio 4’s The Report recently produced a programme about the ‘Corbyn effect’ and looked at the sorts of people supporting his leadership bid. It focused on two young people, essentially disillusioned young people produced during the Blair era who see those years in much the same way my generation saw Thatcher; which is a poor show indeed for the Labour Party. My generation also saw a Labour Party out of office for nearly twenty years, but at the time, despite the desperation and dashed hope, it mattered that you took a genuine stand rather than buying into the club just to be able to make some paltry difference, like New Labour eventually did.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins, the Labour Party will have a crisis on its hands because the rest of the shadow cabinet is largely made up of Blairites or Blair-lites who have fully signed up to the so-called new paradigm of British politics. The middle-class voters wooed to Labour by Blair (those who haven’t already gone back either to the Conservatives or onwards to UKIP) are a new generation of people who have no clue about class or a ‘right-left divide’ because they’ve been weaned on a culture of individualism and personal consumption of everything including political needs. It remains to be seen if enough damage has been done by Thatcher-Blair-Cameron to have pushed these people far enough, through austerity, housing shortages, unemployment and political corruption, to be able to accept a principled left-wing Labour Leader as man whose vision they can share. In Mullins’s book the status quo is maintained and his hero is removed by the establishment.

The core problem

‘In the various e-newsletters I receive from several left-wing organisations there is often a tone of desperation. There is also the familiar ‘call to arms’, the ‘arms’ in question being petitions, ignored peaceful marches and the get-togethers that hope to spread new roots and deepen the already-existing ones.  I’ve attended my fair share of the latter over the years and disappointment has never been very far behind.

It has always been a mistake to rely on the assumption that the next person’s understanding of something you think you share, is the same as your understanding of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a socialist gathering where everyone has been asked why they say they are socialist, or what they hope to achieve with it? Since the total triumph of Neo-liberal economic policy much of the left has taken the position of pressure group. Pressuring for what? That is the question. It appears to be the regular agenda of issues anyone calling themselves “left-wing” engages with alongside the core problem.

The ‘core problem’ refers to the problem of the plutocratically-owned capitalist economy. Not just a selection of its worst activities and the deleterious effects, but the problems arising from its very existence as the dominant underlying cause of social misery. It always stood to reason that the solution was its removal. Well, not quite. The second rung of socialism, the non-revolutionary path, has been satisfied with keeping capitalism on, but making sure it is safely chained-up and under strict supervision. From this we got the entire circus of sideshows including: reform socialism; social democracy; market socialism; capitalism with a ‘human face’. It has led here. To the universal triumph of capitalist markets presided over by powerful vested interests. Its products are the ugly transformation of work into profitable stupidity. To the unemployed wasteland of hundreds of years of human skills that are ‘no longer required’; forced into obsolescance in an economy that values a narrow ideas of ‘skills’ and yet dresses it up as the last word in skill diversity. It has led to housing scarcity; more poverty; chronic debt; economic catastrophe; more pollution; more reckless consumption.

It failed. Capitalism hasn’t been harnessed for the best outcome for all. People in all age ranges: the under-25s, the over 40s, the over 50s, a great mass of people, are with the programme. Some might be upset with various bits of ‘the programme’, some little result of it that complicates and adds uncertainty to their lives, but ‘the programme’ of neo-liberal economic dominance is perceived as simply the way of the world. It has failed dismally, beyond creating a consumption Mecca and replacing human skill with automation, and yet the greatest PR exercise ever has been in presenting this dismal failure as the greatest success story in the history of humankind.

In the Netherlands – which is a rather right-wing country within Western Europe – the socialist parties are neutered. The clearest sign that they have had to kneel down and kiss the ring of triumphant neo-liberalist ideology is the moderated language now used in reference to capitalist economics. The SP (socialistisch partij) is a decent organisation. It is critical of the governments of the day (which are invariably either centre-right or right-wing and all neo-liberal), but its critique always falls short of condemning the core of the problem. They are not averse to wheeling out the populist line of ‘getting small businesses working’; the sort of stuff appealing to the popular idea that capitalism, being essentially morally neutral, is merely hijacked by crooks and corporatism. The same basic idea feeding into the sub-normal fantasies of libertarians and followers of the Smith religion. Most importantly, they have no counter-offensive, no clear informational antidote to the all-pervasive neo-liberal ideology impregnated deep into general culture.

To express fundamental opposition to neo-liberalism (essentially extreme capitalist rationalisation) is considered equal to opposing empirical reality. An explosion of different and disparate ideas clouds the problem. Since the rise of ‘new atheism’ in the U.S. and the theatre of ‘birthers’ and ‘911 conspiracies’, an entire swath of people keen to disassociate themselves from flat-earth thinking likes to stick closer to what is regarded as the ‘rational truth’. Capitalist economics, in all its forms and guises, has the rather enviable position of being considered ‘normal reality’. To most of the world it is not so much an economic system among many as it is just something that ‘is’, like the weather or the sea. Capitalism is not considered as a ‘way’ of running an economy, it is thought of as ‘the’ economy. That is a powerful position to occupy and renders everything else as mere alternatives.

The current left (and even the left of the past) has concentrated too much on criticism and too little on portraying itself as legitimate. Walking the streets in crowds shouting ‘socialism now!’ instantly makes you into a sideline critic rather than someone playing equally on the field. Where is the magazine of heterodox economics that can counter the dominance of ‘The Economist’ as a mainstream discussion of economics? Current socialist thought is not far from the position of ‘alternative’ medicine compared to medical science; the latter seen as the rational truth, the former as a pretender with some crank adherents. One major failing is that the ‘core problem’, the economy, is focused upon less and less as socialist movements – especially the Netherlands International Socialists – busies itself with popular sociology and a never-ending series of anti-racism marches. Too often it is students who move up through the ranks and become academics making their careers as ‘theorists’ within these organisations. The small faithful applauds and the rest of society remains oblivious and carries on living under the ‘normality’ of the corporate-capitalist economy, sometimes happy, sometimes disgruntled.

By getting sidetracked from the ‘core problem’ socialist organisations are going nowhere apart from the next ignored and contained march and the next forgotten ‘conference’.

Au revoir le post

Some time ago (quite some time ago) I wrote several posts charting the gradual demise of the Dutch postal services and the possible demise of the British Post Office. Little has changed at the core apart from the fact that the Post Office in England finally got shunted off into the long-term privatisation programme. Yes, they did it finally. One more crossed off the list of stubborn public organisations resisting the neo-liberal capitalist mantra of “everything safely in private hands”. The NHS is a much tougher nut to crack, but they are working on it, so have your credit card ready.

I’ve read newspaper pieces on it, and some blogs ,with the usual pepperings of ignorant comments from semi-literate simpletons half-way through their latest how-to book for making money on the stock market. These people always have great memories at least, when they rattle off, almost verbatim, the words of the latest policy stuffed into the mouths of political party spokesmen doing the rounds of the tv infotainment cabaret circuit. If we were as smart as they were we’d know deep in our hearts that the Post Office was a ‘failing organisation’ that wasn’t making any profit. We’d see that privatisation would ‘inject much-needed capital’ and allow a more ‘streamlined structure’ allowing it to become a profitable service. Let us thus consult our special handbook:

Understanding Newspeak. (Revised edition 2013):

Failing organisation: Organisation targeted for either privatisation or destruction by prevailing powers that deem it unsuitable for their ideological programme. It is first put under scrutiny by an ‘outside audit’ paid for by taxpayers, after which teams of managers, PR people, and ‘ troubleshooters’ will be drafted in to effect a reorganisation. The alleged purpose is to discover how to save lots of public money by paying lots of the public money to private companies. Eventually, when the public has finally lost interest in the entire farrago, said organisation is either quietly liquidated, privatised in some way or broken up and sold off to asset strippers and similarly deep-pocketed capitalist vultures.

Injecting much-needed capital: Most often large amounts of private money waved under the noses of neo-liberal governments in several ways; sometimes in the form of bribes, and increasingly in place of proper public services funding. Governments seeking to ‘streamline government’ (see: big government and bloated administration) but having limited tax resources, are approached by those whose tax they commonly never receive, offering to fill the resources gap in exchange for leverage. Once secured, the arrangement allows the government to jettison both its role of providing core public services and the costs involved. The downside is zero appreciable gains in tax revenue and an entire public service (free of private corporate interests) given away for free.

Streamlining: In general, sacking large parts of a workforce and/or transferring any remaining functions to locations (usually sub-tropical) where employment law is weak and exploitation high.

Big government: (Usually pejorative) Anything more than the minimum; where the minimum still includes the jobs of the same people calling for smaller government. In the United States e.g. big governments usually arise when Democrats win more seats than Republicans. In the UK a big government is when the Conservative Party, or people like them, is out of office. In the minds of very extreme American politicians, ‘big government’ actually means ‘ the government’, since the general aim is to completely replace its functions with private business and a utopia of free-market pioneers.

Reorganisation: A PR term for saving money by two means: firing large parts of the workforce and selling-off buildings, machinery, tools etc. The theoretical aim seems generally to be an attempt to run businesses on impossibly low levels of normal investment.

Flexible work: The opportunity for an employer to have labour-on-demand available 24 hours a day when it suits them. Most often erroneously defined as ‘suiting the employees lifestyle’. Exceptions where it suits small numbers of people are often highlighted to give the impression that the works fits the employee rather than the other way about.

So now, armed with our enhanced understanding, what can we say about the British Post Office sell-off? Initially we might have wondered why people who want to make money would want to pursue ownership of something that is supposedly failing due to reasons beyond anyone’s control. The argument was originally quite clear-cut. The advent of the internet meant that everyone threw away their pens and paper; banned handwriting; stopped sending birthday and Christmas cards; forgot where pillar boxes were located and that all parcels  – including the internet-driven increase in physical parcels from the likes of Amazon and Ebay – all started to magically be sent via email. The obvious outcome was the demise of real world-postal services. As a result private financiers flocked to acquire this moribund service  in order to pour money into it. Impeccable logic so far.

Before we peruse this conundrum any more, let us mosey over to the Dutch postal service (in name only) to see what things are like much further down the privatisation road. The skeleton history runs thus: The old PTT (Phone, telegraphy, telephony) served its time as a post-war social amenity in the now-outmoded social-democracy economy. Some time later it was partially marketised, but remained largely state-run as the TPG. In time it was finally forced to walk the plank and was bought by Austrian corporation TNT. They went round and stuck TNT stickers onto the post boxes to help people who were confused understand that the post boxes (then still red) now belonged to TNT. Most of the population carried on calling the service the PTT. Later on the company split its parcel service from its post and Post.nl (Post Nederland) was created from a melting pot of existing post handlers, money in fat envelopes (not sent through the postal system) and some back-room politics. Most of the population carried on calling the service the PTT.
Post.nl then adopted their chief policy that the future of paper post is in rapid terminal decline and drastic reorganisation (targeted cutbacks) was needed to secure the future of the postal service; a recent recession gave justification. In the meantime all the postal boxes that weren’t removed now turned orange. Serendipitously this helped in locating them as they became so scarce in towns and cities. Most ordinary people blamed the long-since retired PTT.

Streamlining eased labour costs, but the local nature of the postal service meant that work couldn’t be outsourced to the Far East slave pits, so a policy of old-fashioned exploitation of the remaining workforce, mixed with management techniques and PR, was put into place. A policy of reminding workers at every opportunity that the amount of post is rapidly declining was rolled out, which then of course required flexible work, minimum-hour contracts, time-and-motion spying. In addition most administration staff were helpfully ‘streamlined’ into unemployment and buildings sold off, including central and local post offices and sorting depots. The total separation in the public mind of the Post Office and the Postal Bank (now ING) was completed by eliminating proper banking services from ex-post offices. The promotion of (non-football-related) team managers was done on the basis of general political ignorance, mild-to-severe sociopathic tendencies and an ability to blindly follow policy.

One jargon term that accurately explains this is ‘hollowed out’. The Dutch postal service is a scaled-down semi-professional service carried out by a core of highly-exploited ‘full-time part-timers’ alongside a shifting group of casual labour as and when required: students and the half unemployed essentially. Meanwhile it turns over a generous profit on the stock market, which is quite a feat for a service in rapid terminal decline.

The British postal service can be expected to follow this trajectory mutatis mutandis. Once the old guard of postal workers are retired or hounded out, it will be a purveyor of casual labour and insulting low-paid ‘flexible’ jobs. The ‘Postman’ is now that demoralised figure shambling down your street, way past midday, wearing gaudy polyester and noticeably not whistling. Next week, next month, next year (if he can last that long) his face may change, several times. The shareholders of the British Post will earn a tidy profit. The post will be saved.