POLITICS
12/09/2013 08:21 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Privatising The Queen's Head

PA
The Communication Workers Union hold a demonstration in the constituency of Minister for Postal Affairs, Pat McFadden opposing privatisation of Royal Mail, Bilston, Wolverhampton.

The five things you need to know on Thursday 12 September 2013...

1) PRIVATISING THE QUEEN'S HEAD

Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s resisted selling off Royal Mail because she was 'not prepared to have the Queen's head privatised'. Well, once again, Cameron and co are going beyond Maggie and her friends.

"Coalition to launch Royal Mail sell-off"

is the splash headline on the front of the FT. The paper reports:

"The government will announce its plan to sell a majority of the world's oldest postal service in the most ambitious privatisation since John Major sold the railways in the 1990s. Vince Cable, business secretary, briefed the cabinet on the plans on Tuesday. It means the coalition is within sight of a goal that has eluded governments over 20 years.

"...The announcement will launch a process lasting four to six weeks that could value the company at up to £3bn.

"The public will be able to buy shares in a retail offer, though the marketing will be lower-key than the "Tell Sid" campaign for British Gas in the 1980s.

The BBC reports that anti-privatisation campaigners point out

"... that Royal Mail is now profitable, demonstrating that it can be a successful business without privatisation.

"Campaigners are also concerned that service guarantees, such as deliveries on six days of the week, could be jeopardised, although the government says the universal service is guaranteed by law."

2) DEAR AMERICANS...

'Vlad the Terrible', as the Sun nicknamed him, has being appealing directly to the American public, in an op-ed in the New York Times that reads like a line-by-line rebuttal of President Obama's speech on Tuesday night. From the Associated Press:

"Russian President Vladimir Putin is no fan of the idea of American exceptionalism. He suggests that God isn't either.

"'It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,' Putin wrote in an opinion piece posted Wednesday on the website of The New York Times.

"'There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too,' he wrote. 'We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.'

"Putin's remarks concluded a plea to Americans for caution in dealing with Syria, a Russian ally."

It's difficult to disagree with this particular analysis by the loathsome Putin. Meanwhile, another world leader has been making provocative comments on Syria - from the Telegraph:

"David Cameron committed a 'schoolboy error' in allowing himself to be beaten in a parliamentary vote over Syria and came out of it 'weakened', Francois Hollande is reported to have said.

"The French president, who unlike the British Prime Minister chose to forego seeking parliamentary approval for taking military action against Syria, is reported to have made the undiplomatic comments during a chat with French journalists, according to Le Canard Enchainé, the investigative and satirical weekly...'Cameron comes out of this affair weakened," he is cited as saying. "And it's not good for Great Britain.'"

3) 'YOU LOOK LIKE UKIP'

It isn't just Hollande taking potshots at David Cameron from across the Channel, so too is José Manuel Barroso.

From the Guardian:

"The president of the European Commission has sparked a row with the Conservatives by accusing them of copying Ukip and suggesting Nigel Farage's party will become Britain's 'first force' in Brussels.

In an outburst to MEPs, José Manuel Barroso said British people are 'probably going to vote for Mr Farage' in next year's European elections because Eurosceptic voters will 'prefer the original to the copy'.

His remarks provoked outrage among Tories, who said last night they 'disagree strongly with the president of the commission'. Downing Street also slapped down Barroso's suggestion that anti-Europe feeling could take the continent back to 'divisions, the war, the trenches'."

Like Putin and Hollande, Barroso's got a point though...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a tech-addicted mother trying to use her iPad while fast asleep.

4) HEY KIDS, REJOICE!

From the Telegraph's splash:

"Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing “profound damage” to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts warns.

"Traditional lessons should be put on hold for up to two years amid fears that successive governments have promoted a “too much, too soon” culture in schools and nurseries, it is claimed.

"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders call for a fundamental reassessment of national policies on early education."

Will Michael Gove listen to this bunch of educational softies? Doubt it. It's worth noting that in Finland, which has the world's best education system, children only start main school at the age seven...

5) A NATION OF ESTATE AGENTS?

Nooooooo! From the Guardian's splash:

"A record number of people work in estate agents offices and the sector is growing so fast that it amounted to the fastest growing part of the national workforce in the three months ending in June, according to official figures published on Wednesday.

"The Office for National Statistics said that 562,000 people are employed in real estate in the UK, the largest number since records began in 1978, with 77,000 joining the industry over the last year – data that added to fears that the country is heading for a house price bubble.

"... Concerns about the state of the housing market were... voiced by the business secretary, Vince Cable, who called for an urgent rethink of George Osborne's flagship Help to Buy scheme, which aims to provide government guarantees for low-deposit mortgages from next January."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 32

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian, says: "This crisis resolves little in Syria but says a lot about the United States."

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Nick Clegg has served his split party well and deserves to survive."

David Aaronovitch, writing in the TImes, says: "Anti-intervention, anti-immigration, anti-aid. It’s a fantasy to think we can turn our backs on the planet."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol