ParalympicsGB gave in too easily to Royal Mail

No individual commemorative stamps for the paralympic team.

It is not the fact that the Royal Mail have said they will not produce stamps for each Team GB Paralympic gold medal-winner which is annoying (although it is). What has really got my goat is the supine way ParalympicsGB has accepted it.

In a post on their website, they said:

"In Beijing, ParalympicsGB won 42 gold medals over 10 days of competition, including nine in one day, and we are expecting a similarly world-class level of performance from our athletes this time around. As a result, it is logistically and practically impossible for Royal Mail to produce an individual stamp for every one of the gold medallists for ParalympicsGB."

So because our Paralympians are *better* than our Olympians they should get *less* recognition? Where's the logic in that?

You can be damn sure that if by some stroke of skill, luck and genius the Olympic team won 42 gold medals there'd be stamps of all of them. And how hard can it be to produce 42 stamps when they're already producing a minimum of 22 for the Olympics?

Yes, Paralympians get gold postboxes in their hometowns, and there will be a series of six stamps celebrating our winners, but when LOCOG has done very well to place the Olympics and Paralympics on equal terms, giving our able-bodied and disabled athletes the same measure of respect, this difference becomes all the more noticeable.

The truth is, the Royal Mail doesn't think that the public will be interested in Paralympic winners like Olympic winners, despite the Paralympics producing such stars as Tanni Grey-Thompson and (for South Africa) Oscar Pistorius. What's worse is ParalympicsGB seems to accept that, giving feeble gratitude for the little recognition it feels it deserves.

Paralympic achievements are no less than Olympic achievements and Paralympic athletes deserve no less recognition and support - especially from their own team.

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's

An Olympic stamp. Photograph, Getty Images

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's magazine.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.