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IT would have been enough to make monarchs of centuries past cry "off with their heads!". In the twenty-first century our Queen is not given to such outbursts but, for many of her subjects, the prospect of her image being removed from postage stamps is appalling.

It would end a tradition which goes back 160 years, to when British postage stamps first came into use. The possibility that it could happen, should the Royal Mail be sold to a foreign firm, is down to the foolishness of both the past Labour government, which did not do enough to preserve the Queen's image, and the coalition, which drafted the Postal Service Bill, currently under consideration.

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Outside investment is necessary to make the Royal Mail, crippled by a huge pension deficit, fit for the twenty-first century, but the debacle over the Queen's head also illustrates the hasty approach to privatisation taken by this Government, In reality any buyer of the Royal Mail, whether British or otherwise, would be mad not to have the Queen's head on its stamps, as business minister Ed Davey realises. Britain is immensely lucky to have a monarch who has remained sober, steadfast and sensitive to the concerns of the nation even as members of her family let their standards lapse.

The dedication which the Queen continues to show as she approaches 60 years on the throne is an example to us all but, naturally, she stayed aloof from the postage debate. Government ministers would do well to follow her quiet efficiency. The image of the Queen's head on stamps is part of British life and one that deserves protection.