Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Rural Post Office Scandal

High amongst the reasons for the government wanting to drop rural post offices is that Blair's regime has not shown any skill or appetite for dealing with either the rural community, small enterprises or self employed people with minds of their own.

Cherie Blair's gang of revolutionary republicans seems far more comfortable when engaging with large and easily "spun" centralised operations - with a lot to lose if they rub the government up the wrong way. Especially those operations with strategic management that has grown up in the age of spin, and who are happy to do just about anything for a gong and maintain what in more enlightend times would have been regarded as a monopoly that was not in the public interest.

A simplistic example being that a single call to the Sir Boss of a vast retail empire can result in a "deal" that affecting some 15% of the retail budget of the UK.

It's also much simpler for HMG to do a deal with Bill Gates than encourage the UK to develop innovative IT solutions based around the world of those unnervingly titled "open systems". And so MI6 can be guaranteed a back door into any Microsoft software product.

The political reality is that those affected are probably 80% non-Labour voters, and this government has shown that it can be quite sanguine about gerrymandering with the public interest and your money. By now HMG has realised that this government's involvement with anything even faintly commercial is the kiss of death, so it just wants out of the PO problem as fast as possible.

It might even pay handsomely to be rid of it if there is good PR to be had. I can imagine Tesco thinking about doing something with the opportunity - but I suspect that even they might wonder if this a bridge too far, and if there will be a backlash for the vast Tesco presence already out there.

One thing is for sure, Alistair Darling's PO plan has not been thought through commercially, and that there are opportunities for someone who can marshall these 2500 postmasters and postmistresses in a relevant structure.

The name of today's consumer marketing game is locating and engaging demographically identifiable punters as they become ever more dispersed across an increasingly distributed media landscape. So the opportunity to reach and serve defined communities like those being served here is only likely to get more valuable.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Consensus - too valuable for politicians

A word about us for a change.

TMP has no desire to create yet another political party, instead it seeks to provide a haven where despairing members of any party can come to discuss the sort of common sense and objective opinion that has been lost by the main parties in the mindless pursuit of swing voters.

There is clearly a varying degree of common ground between ALL parties, yet it is in the yah-boo-sucks nature of parliamentary politics that the majority consensus tends to get quickly overshadowed by the extremities of policy that might influence a few vacillatory swing voters.

Moreover, the dangers of consensus in the hands of dodgy politicians are obvious. Gordon Brown's latest raid on pockets in the name of the green consensus is a typically cynical effort to leverage the public conscience to fund his government's staggering profligacy and wastage.

The exploitation of careless "consensus" by party politicians had lead to the creation of monsters such as "health and safety" gestapo, and the rudderless NHS that we have today. And to listen to the twaddle spouted by job creation schemes such as "safety camera partnerships" you would think the UK was subject to the worst driving on earth - yet the stats clearly show the UK has amongst the safest, albeit most overcrowded, road systems on the planet.

Consensus works best when it is directly managed and controlled by its owners: the majority. But not all members of the majority are members of the ruling party, so how can we prevent politicians from leveraging consensus to fund extremism designed to attract the 10% of swing voters that actually decide UK elections?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

More of the same

It hardly seems worth adding the chorus of irritation and indifference that has met the Chancellor's latest assault on the pockets of the nation. The same familiar platitudes, the same lame excuses (plus an inevitable new green one), the same old story. By now it's very predictable and very boring.

Bearing in mind that Gordon is hoping that he will have at least 3 years playing at being PM, he is obviously keen to rake in as much cash as possible to fund what will become his legacy. And as forewarned in this blog, he latched on to the careless "consensus" that has arisen around climate change as a handy excuse to pile on more of his trademark stealth taxes.

If only the relentless stream of hot air from this most dour and boring Scot could be channelled into a turbine at Westminster, his place on earth might not be the relentless waste of time and resources that it presently seems to be. As the opposition's star turn George Osborne wryly observed, Gordon has been "green" ever since the fateful night when he did his deal with Blair over who would get first turn at being PM. Pass the Chianti, someone...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Banks: a cartel that must be dealt with

Anyone in the UK who deals with a "high street" bank will immediately empathize with the view that these institutions are habitually taking the piss (and anything else they can get) from their customers. And these days "high street" means Bangalore High Street in many cases.

The evidence of the operation of a cartel is so obvious that is a mark of the curious relationship between successive governments and banks that they can operate with complete disregard for the fact that just about every piece of anti-competitive legislation in existence defines how they presently operate as a monopoly that is not in the interests of customers.

Banks have been unquestioningly compliant with President Blair's raft of new privacy invasion measures dressed up as "anti terrorist" legislation, resulting in customers who have dealt with the same branch for over 30 years being required to provide proof of identity. No doubt when the time comes for Gordon Brown to implement his planned 0.5% annual wealth tax, the ever-compliant banks will be co-operating eagerly in order that they are permitted to retain their immunity from competition.

The snail pace at which many of them have adopted technology reflects the lack of any serious competitive pressure. Lloyds' customers still cannot reliably conduct business using email, for example. No bank publishes viable email contact addresses on the web, and most are terrified that email will be used by their staff to do untrustworthy things, so its use is strictly limited to trying to sell the customers junk that they don't want or need.

Yet despite being unwilling to trust their staff with doing business using email, banks are happy to insist that their systems are trusted and infallible, and that there is no such thing as ATM fraud.

The amount of time it takes for payment to "clear" is a very old and very classic chestnut that all banks profit from at the expense of their customers. I suspect it's almost unchanged from the days of stage coaches - yet items on my online credit card statement appear virtually in "real time".

Bankers know full well about the reign of terror they exert, and it is in their relentlessly suspicious nature that they assume that anyone wishing to change banks must have done something dreadful to want to face the trauma and inconvenience of moving accounts.

TMP will deal with these sorry monopolies by devising new ways for the people of the UK to interact with financial services without becoming psychologically enslaved by their banks, in a relationship that persists almost entirely because of the fear of the process of changing banks.