Hugo Rifkind Hugo Rifkind

Shared Opinion | 28 June 2008

If a policy is in crisis, hand it to the Post Office — or the Girl Guides

If a policy is in crisis, hand it to the Post Office — or the Girl Guides

Well I never. You think the government has taken its eye off the ball. You think they’ve got nothing to do except rear up in the Daily Mail to tell us how lucky we all are, or pen little slurs in political magazines because they are jealous that they never get to hang out with Shami Chakrabarti. Then, suddenly, they go and hit you with a move of real, breathtaking political genius. They decide to hand over ID cards to the Post Office.

That’s a good one, isn’t it? That’s raw, political cynicism at its best. How can you be anti-ID cards if those same ID cards are going to be saving the Post Office? No matter if they are only for dodgy foreign nationals at first. Your sleepy rural branch has just been handed a lifeline. Bing! Window Nine! ‘Ah, Mr Abu Qatada, is it? Yes, fingerprint here, please. And can we interest you in any of our additional services? Home insurance, perhaps? No? Not worried about burglary, sir? House quite secure? Ah. Jolly good.’

Brilliant. It’s only a proposal, for now, and the story looked like it came from the Post Office. The suspicion, surely, has to be that it did not. If the government plays this right, the issues of ID cards and Post Office preservation could become irrevocably entwined. I don’t mean to gush, but it really is damnably clever. Hand a new, loathed, controversial measure over to a beloved, failing national institution, and the traditionalist nay-sayers don’t know which way to leap. In the British psyche, some things are more important than liberty. The Post Office is one of them.

There are others. In fact, I’m sensing opportunity here.

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