Well, well, well! What a week. I've been trying to keep up with local politicking but Thor had other plans and instead most of my daylight and moonlight hours have been spent worrying about my daughter trapped in New York with a school trip. She's still there and as it stands is booked on a flight bringing her home only a week late, on Saturday. Phew! My brother was also stranded in Singapore but he's a big boy and can look after himself. Bless...
So, where to begin? Last week saw the first Leaders' Debate - this one on ITV. Just the kind of evening's viewing I enjoy - no adverts and plenty of opportunity to shout at the screen (and virtually via the delights of Twitter). Actually I didn't shout on Twitter. I thought I was very calm in pointing out to Antony Little (Tory PPC for Norwich South) the discrepancy in his tweets compared to the 'clean campaign' policy he'd signed earlier. He didn't like it though and told me I was "rude". Then he blocked me from following his words of wisdom. Good to see how interested he really is in answering questions in an "upfront and forthright" manner. Yep, or if you don't like them just ignore them eh Mr Little?
Once again I find myself flummoxed at what a thin skin someone running for (any) office can have. If he can't stand up to me on Twitter what chance would he have if elected in fulfilling his quoted ambition of being one of the people there to make changes (see last blog)?
I don't mean to rant about that one particular candidate but he's really got my goat, just not my vote. His pamphlets bang on about his "real life experience" while he castigates other candidates for being "career politicians". Why are you running for office if you don't want to be a full-time politician? And on the other point - who hasn't got "real life experience"? What a stupid phrase. But to take him at his word all I can see is a 31 year old who has run for Parliament before and who has never left the education sector - going from UEA to being a teacher. Don't patronise me with your "real life experience".
Moving on (thank goodness!) to my local LibDemservative candidate, Simon Wright. You may recall that I'd asked him a question about the apparent mismatch between his pledge to save local post offices and his central office's stance of using Onepost to send their missives through my door - thus putting money into the hands of private companies with absolutely zero interest in 'local' in any way, shape or form and depriving Royal Mail of much needed revenue. Well, I got an answer!!!
Ok, so I had to prompt him for it. What is it with candidates not feeling it necessary to answer the questions of constituents?
But here it is: Thanks for your question. I have checked this with my agent.
Local mail distributed from our Norwich Lib Dem office is always distributed through Royal Mail. We have a mailing account with them, and they get significant levels of business from us. The national party office, due to the vast quantities of mail issued particularly at election time, does not have capacity to directly produce and process mailshots and so these mailings are produced by mailing houses. Any mailing house will use whichever delivery company can give it the best deal.
Royal Mail is under considerable pressure at the moment, and without significant reforms it will continue to decline. These reforms are needed to cope with increased competition, and lower overall mail volumes due to increased use of email and electronic communications.
Staff morale has been harmed at Royal Mail as debates over the future of the organisation continue without employees feeling fully involved.
Liberal Democrat proposals are to create a new ownership model for Royal Mail, based on the John Lewis model. A majority shareholding would be held by Government and employees. Royal Mail staff will have a full opportunity to participate in the running of the company as part owners and through a staff council. This will ensure that front line employees are engaged in the modernisation and reforms needed to respond to structural changes in the mail market and create a positive future for the Royal Mail. The remaining minority share will be sold to create funds for investment in the Royal Mail/Post Office. It’s vital that we protect the Universal Service Obligation and ensure Royal Mail remains part of the social and economic glue of our nation.
There are also significant reforms required to put Royal Mail and private competitors on a more level playing field. Currently, RM’s competitors take the most profitable business without paying their fair share of the costs. Liberal Democrats would address this by:
- Introducing a statutory guarantee to protect the Universal Service Obligation and giving the regulator power to place a levy on other operators, who do not undertake the USO, to pay towards its cost. This cost is currently borne solely by the Royal Mail. It should instead be borne by the industry as a whole
- Reviewing the pricing of the access arrangements under which Royal Mail undertake the last mile delivery. The Royal Mail will be permitted to earn a fair economic return on its last mile service. This will require a study of the costs associated with last mile delivery to enable a fair price to be set. Future efficiency gains will be shared between the Royal Mail and the private sector through price revisions so that Royal Mail is incentivised to become more efficient
I hope this helps to explain the Lib Dem position. There is a real threat to Royal Mail at the moment, but Labour have abandoned its plans for the organisation, and press reports indicate that the Tories could privatise Royal Mail.
Thanks for contacting me about this.
Thanks Simon! The best bit of that answer for me was "Currently, RM’s competitors take the most profitable business without paying their fair share of the costs." Yep - they do - and your Party is contributing to them taking the most profitable part of the business. Does anyone else see the irony in this??? I must be losing the plot...
Still, at least he answered. Sort of. Well. In a way. It's ok for them to go against their principles because it's cheaper. As long as we've got that straight. But the idea of Royal Mail being like John Lewis is rather lovely. It's all about the customer y'know!
Well that's it for now - recycling bin is bursting with pamphlets (Greens and LibDems are the worst) and we're only half way there.
Next up will be questions (and hopefully answers) from Labour and Green. I think you can safely say that although I may still be undecided the Tories have managed to rule themselves out on both a national and local level.
One down, more to go...