Putting The Spectator together in a week of postal difficulties is always an awkward task because we can never be quite sure when our subscribers are going to get to read the magazine. We can’t be certain that by the time it drops on to your doormat in Woking the government will not have fallen and Mr Blair be living in exile on St Helena. You may even have been dead for several years, or at least have run off with the milkman. What you probably won’t have done, on the other hand, is run off with the postman. To judge by the tirade of complaints in the letters pages of national newspapers this week — assuming that they refer to the current postal difficulties and have not been mouldering in the back of some Post Office van since the 1970s — postmen are not very popular at the moment. Grannies are moaning that their grandchildren’s birthday greetings have been arriving a fortnight late. Others complain that post which used to arrive at breakfast time does not now come until teatime. Three-year-old Abigail Fielding missed a hernia operation, and will now have to return to the NHS waiting lists, because the letter informing her of the scheduled appointment took more than a week to arrive in spite of being posted first-class.
The official explanation for the misery is bizarre: the Royal Mail says it is all down to the postal system adjusting to the abolition of the second delivery. Why should not going out on a second round delay the first round? The subtext to the current postal difficulties is that the Royal Mail has used the abolition of the second post as an opportunity to change the rosters of postmen. With a staff of 180,000 sub-Trotskyists, it is hard enough for the Royal Mail to agree the re-siting of the Coke machines at Mount Pleasant, let alone change a postman’s working hours.