Royal mail

Letters: Jeremy Clarke was an example to us all

Goodbye, Jeremy Each week I opened The Spectator at Low Life in part to read that brilliant column and, more recently, to see how Jeremy Clarke was coping with his deteriorating health. Always hoping the column would be there; that he had, despite excruciating pain, penned us another. Like very many of his regular admiring readers, I had found the last two weeks disturbingly sad and last week we learned that he has died and is free at last from his suffering. As an oncologist, during a career treating thousands of patients, at first ones with prostate and other urological cancers, and later ones with breast cancer, I have seen

Rampant unions will embed high inflation

So farewell, Transpennine Express, the northern rail operator whose hapless management were no match for the Aslef union that was determined to see this underperforming franchise renationalised. TPE’s drivers, beneficiaries of the super-luxury conditions I recited last month, have effectively invented a new form of moral hazard: have no fear of crippling your employer with outrageous demands and relentless non-cooperation, because if it goes down, the government will step in and re-employ you on the same terms or better. Aslef has more strikes planned nationally for 31 May and 3 June, and the other rail union RMT – having done its best to disrupt travel to Eurovision in Liverpool –

Stamped out: Royal Mail’s plan to shrink Queen Elizabeth’s head

As King Charles’s stamps begin landing on our doormats more frequently, we’ll be saying goodbye to the familiar Arnold Machin silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II that has appeared on our envelopes for 55 years. But what is less familiar is the story of how that silhouette almost changed dramatically two decades ago.  Early in this millennium, the Royal Mail’s design director, Barry Robinson, led a secret initiative to design a new set of ‘definitive’ stamps – the everyday 1st and 2nd class ones. The aim was to make it easier for visually impaired or partially sighted people to see the class of stamp by making the ‘1’ or ‘2’ much

The truth about corporate taxes

I’ve chosen to write about corporate tax rates this week not because they’re the sexiest subject available but because – unlike the government’s frontbench, the value of the pound and the scale of winter fuel bills – they’re unlikely to change dramatically during the shelf-life of this column. An increase in corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent, originally announced by Rishi Sunak, will go ahead in April, despite new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s own leadership campaign pledge to cut the rate to 15 per cent, which would have placed the UK between Ireland and Singapore in competitive tax tables. The uplift will, we’re told, tip £19 billion

How to post a parcel without leaving your house

Here’s a useful tip. Go to the Royal Mail website and you can ask your postman to collect letters or parcels from your home at a cost of 60p per item. You pay for postage online, print a label and book a collection for the following day. Granted, it’s an extravagant way to merely avoid a walk to the postbox, but for special delivery items or parcels it’s a godsend. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can even get your postie to bring a label. Given that Royal Mail was founded in 1516, I’m not quite sure why it took 500 years to come up with this

How many people still send letters?

Borderland Few countries can have passed through as many kingdoms and empires as Ukraine — the ‘borderlands’. These are just a few of the political entities which have controlled parts or all of modern-day Ukraine before it became an independent nation in 1991: Scythian Kingdom; Roman Empire; Ostrogothic Kingdom; Bulgar Kingdom; Khazar Kingdom; Kievan Rus; Mongolia; Galicia-Volhynia; Poland; Lithuania; Ottoman Empire; Cossack Hetmanate; Austro-Hungarian Empire; Russia; Free Territory of Ukraine; Soviet Union. Schemes and scams The government hopes to raise £12 billion through the 1.25% rise in National Insurance contributions from April. How does this compare with money wrongfully claimed under Covid relief schemes? According to HMRC estimates: 8.7% of

Are England fans allowed to be proud of the St George’s Cross?

It’s starting to feel like the only flag you can’t fly in England is the England flag. Wave the Pride flag out of your living room window and your neighbours will gush. In fact, flying the Pride flag is practically mandatory in June, Pride month. Every town hall, school, bank and social-media site is draped in the rainbow colours. Such is the omnipresence of the Pride flag that it is actual headline news when someone refuses to wave it. For the second year running, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire has decided not to fly the Pride colours. The BBC was on this bizarre case pronto. ‘Anger as Pride

How the Post Office lost its way

One of the many gems in the vast archives of the Post Office is a six-volume collection of letters from a Colonel Whitley in Head Office to the men (and not a few women) working across the country as postmasters. A former private secretary to King Charles II, Whitley effectively ran the nascent General Post Office for five years with conspicuous success. Those under his charge found him, as we might say, firm but fair. In a letter of November 1672, Whitley sternly advised one Mr Watts to crack down hard on a slipshod junior whom he had been foolish to employ on the mails. As the Colonel pointed out,

Rico Back’s departure is a first-class opportunity for Royal Mail

The Royal Mail worker who rang my bell to deliver an Amazon package on Friday was wearing a glittery ball gown because she and her colleagues were fundraising for local hospitals: ‘Two thousand quid so far,’ she said cheerily as she accepted my donation and thanks. But if I had asked her what she thought of the performance of her ultimate boss Rico Back — chief executive of Royal Mail until his sudden departure after less than two years in the job — I suspect she might not even have recognised his name, so remote has this German-born, Swiss-resident big shot been from the front line of his organisation’s role