Is this the modern definition of austerity? The potential selling off of the Royal Mail is not going to be hampered if the new owners want to replace Queen Elizabeth II with something else of their choosing.
Since the famous “penny black” went on sale back in 1840, all British stamps have borne the profile of the reigning monarch. But if the Royal Mail is eventually sold to foreign owners, it’s come to light that there’s no law explicitly stating that the tradition must continue. “There’s nothing specifically to stop whoever runs the Royal Mail in future dropping the royal head,” said Business Secretary Vince Cable (who arguably has more pressing business to deal with right now) though he also pointed out, “I think it is unlikely they would, because it is a very powerful brand.”
But it has become a considerable cause for concern, seeing as the government is in talks with Buckingham Palace over the sticky matter. The postal services bill, as it is known, does give the Queen a veto over any use of her image, but, curiously, doesn’t insist that her head is shown.
Predictably, the opposition Labour party has entered into the controversy, with Cable’s counterpart, Shadow Business Secretary John Denham, accusing the coalition of leaving a “glaring loophole.” Denham remarked, “The fact that they haven’t bothered to protect the monarch’s head on our stamps just shows how desperate they are to sell Royal Mail off as quickly and for as much cash as possible.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat minister in charge of postal services, chimed in that, in fact, the previous Labour government should be held accountable for the situation but doesn’t think the nightmare scenario will play out: “Quite apart from the law, any company would be absolutely stark staring mad to remove it.”
The Queen herself has, of course, kept mum on the subject, possibly preferring to concentrate instead on her grandson’s Prince William impending nuptials next April. And therein lies an intriguing compromise: what better gift could there be for the happy couple than for the Queen to suggest that her head be replaced by that of Queen-in-Waiting, Kate Middleton? A literal Royal stamp of approval, if you will.