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.

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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.