SHADOW business secretary Ken Clarke yesterday said that a Tory government would privatise the Royal Mail if it wins the next election, as the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced a second three-day walk out next week. <br /><br />Clarke said that only private capital and management could give Royal Mail a new lease of life and end its &ldquo;old fashioned&rdquo; working practices, sounding the death knell for a state-owned postal service. <br /><br />He said that the Royal Mail was &ldquo;broke&rdquo; and would need a massive change of culture to stop business &ldquo;draining away&rdquo; to commercial rivals like TNT. <br /><br />&ldquo;We propose to bring in private capital, assuming it is not in too disastrous a state by next May,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />The shadow business secretary said he had already held a series of &ldquo;private confidential meetings&rdquo; with prospective buyers, signalling that the Tories could sell off the asset quickly if they take power at the next election. <br /><br />And Clarke hit out at Prime Minister Gordon Brown for &ldquo;changing his mind&rdquo; over plans to part-privatise the service after the government was forced to do an embarrassing U-turn because it could not enlist the support of its own backbenchers. <br /><br />The Tory plans emerged as the CWUannounced a three day walkout starting next Thursday, on top of this week&rsquo;s 48 hour strike that will end at 4am tomorrow morning. <br /><br />Up to 120,000 CWU members are walking out in this round of strikes: 42,000 mail centre staff and drivers downed tools yesterday, with many forming picket lines at 37 mail centres around the UK. A further 78,000 workers are expected to walk out today.<br /><br />Brown slammed the industrial action, calling for Royal Mail&rsquo;s management and the CWU to negotiate an end to the &ldquo;self-defeating&rdquo; strike.<br /><br />Meanwhile, commercial rivals like TNT and UK Mail last night reported a surge in the volume of mail they sort, as businesses turn to alternatives to avoid a slump in sales.<br /><br />Dutch firm TNT is keen to show it can pick up the slack, as it is lobbying the government to relax regulations governing the final mile of postal deliveries so it can launch a full alternative to the Royal Mail. <br /><br />And TNT is calling on the government to repeal laws that exempt the Royal Mail from Vat, preventing competitors from entering the market. <br /><br />Amazon and John Lewis have both said they are using alternative services to get goods to consumers in the run up to Christmas.<br />