Friday 15 February 2008

Post offices: only connect

Why is it that politicians don’t make basic connections that make themselves easier to understand and help people remember what they’re saying?

I’ve puzzled over this for ages. Is it that their brains are shaped like government departments, with clear demarcation lines between issues? Is it that they are stuck with the usual categories of journalists?

Either way, why is it that Lib Dems are not making more connections about the catastrophic closure of post offices?

The post office issue is important on its own, but it looks like just another bandwagon campaign. Connect it to the rest and you can raise the level of debate to something more connected and crusading.

Every sub-post office that closes, according to research by the think-tank I work for, reduces money flows in the local ward by an average of £300,000 a year. That is seriously impoverishing.

Nor is it just post offices either. We are losing banks, pubs, greengrocers, police stations, playing fields and all the rest, by deliberate policy – a kind of sucking of the life out of our communities.

And there’s the Competition Commission today saying that the problem is there isn’t enough competition between identical supermarket formats, while the high streets continue to suffer from this kind of monopolistic thinking.

So for goodness sake, let’s try to stop sounding like politicians campaigning on small local issues, and make the connections to the slow impoverishment of so many communities, and their transformation into dependent supplicants to big corporations and big government agencies….


Anonymous said...

Do you have a link to that research, as it sounds very useful.

I find this a difficult subject to grasp, as I rarely use Post Offices. (Certainly, I don't use them for posting mail.) Thus I don't have the direct experience to fully understand why others place such value on them.

From talking to pensioners, some of the utility they gain from Post Offices is as a de facto Social Club; the process of collecting their pensions provides an opportunity to meet and chat with their friends.

As an aside, the following are all activities for which I have at some point in my life used the Post Office, and my current method of doing the same act:

- Getting Proof of Posting for an Open University Assignment. (Now sent online)
- Tax Disc for Car (Now done online, with computer check of insurance and MOT)
- Buying stamps (Now bought in any newsagent, or printed using Smartstamps)
- Sending a Parcel (Now done more cheaply using FedEx pickup or Mailboxes Etc. franchise store)
- Buying a Postal Order (Now I'd use Paypal or a debit/credit card)

David Boyle said...

This is the research I was talking about (it's really about Manchester):

Anonymous said...

I too have puzzled over why so many people don’t seem to ‘get it’. The awareness of the connected deep structure of society just doesn’t seem to be there and everything flows from that.

An analogy I have used to help myself think through this is just how impossible any meaningful understanding of chemistry would be without first understanding the nature and properties of the various elements – the deep structure. Without this, one would be reduced to merely commenting on apparently random phenomena. So it is with Post Offices and the rest.

My tentative conclusion is that it’s down to a longstanding failure of leadership in the top echelons of the ‘Liberal Tendency’ (and especially therefore the Lib Dems) to expose the deep structure and make the case.

This is very strange because what has been neglected is all classic Liberal stuff – people, power, influence etc. We need to rediscover this territory fast or we’re just spitting into the wind.

Incidentally I very much agree that you’re heading in the right direction in your final paragraph. A question I often ask myself is “Why should we make the World safer and cosier for big corporations at the expense of everyone else?” to which, of course, there is no good answer.