Peter Hoskin

Is this Brown’s Royal Mail escape route?

Is this Brown's Royal Mail escape route?
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The politics of the Government's plan for Royal Mail are becoming more and more confused.  The latest signs from Downing Street are that they may make one or two concessions to the backbench rebels, but that they'll stick with the main thrust of the part-privatisation package.  Yet Nick Robinson points out another option that may present itself to Brown, as potential partners look warily on at the brouhaha in Westminster:

"I have been told that both political and economic factors may delay the implementation of part-privatisation. TNT, the company most likely to be a partner for the Royal Mail, has recently announced a sharp drop in its own profits, a redundancy programme and wage cuts in the Netherlands.

Ministers insist that they will proceed to a Commons vote on the issue even though they may have to rely on Conservative votes to avoid defeat. However, some in government may argue that this news could offer Gordon Brown a get-out-of-jail-free card on the trickiest policy issue he faces between now and the summer." Given how much trouble this threatens to cause Brown, I wouldn't be too surprised if he took this escape route - and assuaged both sides of his party with some excuse like, "We remain committed to our original plans for the Royal Mail, but - due to the unprecedented, global, financial crisis which started in America - suitable partners can't be found, and we cannot proceed at present".  From our Dear Leader's perspective, this would also have the benefit of pushing the issue onto the next government's plate.