An impressive Queen lookalike made her 'royal' speech at the CWU Rally in Kingston, where more than a thousand marched though Lib-Dem Minister Edward Davey's constituency against plans to privatise the Royal Mail. London, UK. 22/01//2011
An impressive Queen lookalike made her 'royal' speech at the close of the CWU's 'Keep The Post Public' rally in Kingston, where more than a thousand marched against plans to privatise the Royal Mail. London, UK. 22/01//2011
Kingston was chosen for the protest as it is the constituency of Lib-Dem MP Edward Davey who is heading the coalition's plans to sell off our postal services. It's also a very apt location for a protest against selling off the Royal Mail, as it is a Royal Borough where many of our early English monarchs were crowned. The march following the rally passed within a few yards of the Coronation stone in front of Kingston Guildhall before ending by the River Thames.
Edward Davey is MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, and before being elected as an MP was a management consultant who specialised in postal services, working on them in Sweden, Taiwan, Belgium, South Africa and elsewhere.
Business Secretary Vince Cable, Davey's boss, is the Lib-Dem MP for the neighbouring constituency, Richmond & Twickenham. So the plans to sell of the postal service very much arise from these two Lib-Dem MPs in the small area of West London where the protest took place.
The national 'Keep the Post Public' demonstration started with a rally in the Fairfield Recreation Ground in the centre of Kingston. Among the speakers were CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, Dave Ward of the CWU Postal department, local Labour candidate Max Freedman, Jim Kirwan, CWU London regional secretary, Christine Quigley of London Labour Youth and Christine Blower, the NUT General Secretary. One of the biggest rounds of applause was for Arnie, a school student who spoke briefly about how they had organised against the government cuts and fees increases and had occupied their school.
The Royal Mail is currently required to deliver and collect to all of the 28 million UK addresses six days a week at the same cost. The Postal Services Bill, currently awaiting its second reading in the House of Lords, includes a requirement for Ofcom to review the current universal service within 18 months of the sell-off. Almost certainly this would lead to them approving poorer levels of service in more remote areas and possibly differential prices, getting away from the current universal tariff, either immediately or at a later review.
The Bill also charges Ofcom with assessing the financial burden of providing the universal service, and this will almost certainly lead to large price hikes. Even without this we are getting a 5p rise in stamp prices next year.
Privatisation of the Royal Mail would also threaten post offices, as the Bill does not safeguard the 'Inter Business Agreement' that links postal services with post offices, and the privatised service could decide to use supermarkets and high street chains in preference to local post offices as their major outlets. The result of losing perhaps a third of their income would be disastrous on these local post offices, leading to thousand of them, particularly in rural areas, closing.
An ICM poll in 2009 found that 78% of us believed selling Royal Mail would be a bad deal for the taxpayer and 82% thought prices would go up. But the Royal Mail represents rich pickings for the rich supporters of the government, as it made £321 million profit in 2009 and £404 million in 2010, and has the support of both staff and management for its modernisation plans.
After the rally, the march, with many union banners set off led by some loud drumming by a band of Indian drummers and accompanied by the jazzy brass of the Select Syncopators, made its way through the busy shopping centre of Kingston, with occasional brief halts and Dave Ward making good use of a powerful megaphone to raise support.