River Wissey Lovell Fuller


March 2002

The rich, lifers, adoption and the postal system all come under the hammer

The idea of the 'Soapbox' was to provide an opportunity for people to have a moan about some injustice or wrongdoing or just to get something off their chest. It would have been, and remains, a suitable spot for those who are deeply irritated by the presence and actions of Favor Parker to complain. I can generally find something to let off a little bit of steam about but I do not regard the 'Soapbox' as my personal domain.

This month, however, there are four topics in the news currently which I would like to air:

A woman receiving a six figure salary received a £25,000 bonus. £25,000 is more than many of those performing worthwhile and important services receive in a year, and you might think that she would be pleased but no - she regarded it as an insult, so much so, in fact, that she sued her employer. To my amazement the Court found in her favour and awarded her an amount which I believe was £150,000. Now it does seem to me that there is something wrong in a society or a nation which puts so much value on somebody called a 'drinks sector analyst', but has put such little value on vital public services.

Of course it is not an isolated case. We are constantly hearing of ridiculous salaries and bonuses paid to people working in the City, of company executives awarding themselves huge sums of money, even when the company that they are managing is losing money hand over fist, and of lawyers demanding fees that have brought their profession into disrepute and have put the possibility of recourse to the law outside of the reach of most. We are told that enormous executive salaries are needed to attract and keep people of the required calibre but I don't believe that, for every executive holding one of these positions there is another equally, or perhaps even more, capable waiting in the wings.

The result is that we see an ever widening gap between those at one end of the income scale and those at the other. Those that hoped that New Labour would help to close the gap are disappointed, the gap has widened under their stewardship. It is not because I am green with envy, (well perhaps I am a pale shade of green) that it annoys me so much, at my stage of life that doesn't bother me to that extent, it is just because it is wrong.

I was incensed by the case of the man who served 26 years in prison for a murder that it is now accepted he did not commit. The case raises questions about the actions and attitudes of the police investigating that murder originally and that in itself gives me cause for concern, it is not the first case where one is forced to suspect that the police have been more concerned with getting somebody for the crime than they have been concerned with ensuring that they have got the right person. But it is not so much the action of the police in this case that really upset me, they could have been genuinely mistaken, it was the fact that, had the man been willing to admit to his guilt, he could have been released after 11 years, but ,because he maintained his innocence, he was forced to remain in prison for a further 15 years.

I believe that that is fairly standard practice for the Home Office. Surely it is wrong! They are simply exerting the worst kind of blackmail just to try and ensure that they avoid having to admit that they might have convicted an innocent man. They are quite willing to set the genuine murderer free, providing he admits his guilt and professes remorse, even if that is a pretence, but anyone who dares to maintain his innocence of the crime is kept incarcerated.

I understand that a change in the law is imminent that will permit unmarried couples to adopt. Now no-one can justifiably accuse me of being narrow minded. To adopt a child is, however, a major commitment, probably the most major commitment that anyone can make and it just doesn't seem quite right to me that a couple that are not prepared to make a commitment to each other by undertaking the marriage vows should be permitted to adopt a child.

It seems as though the monopoly over letter post enjoyed by Royal Mail (Consignia if you like) is to be ended. Why? Our postal system remains the envy of most other countries. A first class letter in the UK costs 27p, in Germany it is over £1 (a privatised post), in Holland 81p and in France 46p (a nationalised post). All examples of privatised mail that I know of are more expensive than the Royal Mail. The Royal Mail delivers earlier than almost all European countries and, almost uniquely, delivers twice daily in many areas. 90.7% of first class mail reaches its destination the following day, which compares very favourably with most countries, especially bearing in mind that Royal Mail dependent upon a rickety transport system that is outside of its control. So, if it is that good why not leave it alone? If it is losing 1p on every first class letter as they claim, why not put the cost up by 2p? That would enable them to make a profit and still be a lot cheaper than most other countries, and a lot cheaper than I would expect any privatised mail to achieve once the initial competition battles have been fought and won. Proposals to privatise are a recipe for another shambles, like the railways and the buses. We will probably need different coloured post boxes for the different organisations, we will have more than one 'postman' having to do their rounds, and probably different stamps for the different companies. The Regulator and/or the Government seem determined to ruin the postal system as we know it. What on earth is wrong with Tony Blair, he gets more like Mrs Thatcher every day.

Ron Watts

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