Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Royal Mail Will Prove a Real Political Test

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Royal Mail Will Prove a Real Political Test

Article excerpt

THE apparent determination of the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to privatise Royal Mail could prove a real early flashpoint for the coalition -- and for the opposition. Privatisation is unfinished business from Labour's last term, then a project of Lord Mandelson. But it is likely to prove deeply divisive for the coalition. It could also expose real differences between Labour leadership contenders.

The case for greater private involvement in Royal Mail is strong: it has struggled commercially for years in a market undergoing rapid change. Its service in parts of London especially is lamentable. It needs new capital that it cannot realistically expect without selling off assets. The question is how far to push privatisation. The Lib-Dems' manifesto proposed selling off 49 per cent of Royal Mail while dividing the remainder between its employees and the Government. The Tories favour a complete sell-off.

How Mr Cable negotiates those differences will test to the limit both his own considerable political skills and the patience of hard-liners in the two parties. …

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