Class

One day to go. Nobody seems to know why the Prime Minister chose March 29th in particular to trigger Article 50 so here’s my theory. She has until the end of the month. She does not want to leave it to the last day because in two years’ time when Britain leaves the EU, “Independence Day” will be on the 1st of April. She intends to inform the Council of Europe by letter so tomorrow is the last chance for it to get to Brussels on time, providing she gets to the post office early and sticks a first class stamp on it.

Most people reading this in Germany will not know what a first class stamp is of course. It’s very difficult to explain to a German, or a native of any of the other countries I’ve lived in, the concept of first and second class stamps. In Germany, if you post a letter you buy a stamp. You affix it to the envelope and, if you post it before five o’ clock, it will arrive the following working day. You pay the price the machine tells you. If you want it to get there slower, you go to the post office a day later. The idea of having a second class service where you pay half the price and the delivery takes three times as long confuses most Germans; they immediately interpret it as a metaphor on British society.

“So these second class letters. I mean, how are they second class? Are they allowed to travel on the same trains as first class letters or do they have to sit in different wagons like the British Sahibs and the Indians? Are they permitted to live in the same letter boxes as first class letters even? Or do you use first class stamps for first class addresses and second class stamps for second class addresses? I have a friend in Burnley. Do I need to send my letters second class when I write to him?”

In some ways the system makes no sense: a relic from a long gone era. In others it’s perfectly suited to the “pay as you go” world we live in. Outdated but bang up-to-date. Archaic but brilliant. The madness and the genius of Britain rolled into one.

All of which reminds me that Scotland has been very much treated as a second class address today. The Scottish Parliament votes to press for a second independence referendum; the Daily Mail decides to lead with a story about whether the First Minister or Theresa May has the best legs. All very silly. I expect they only published it because they know that nobody reads the Daily Mail in Scotland.

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