Post Office Scandal and the Power of Drama

Mr Bates vs the Post Office on IT

The details of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal are shocking. This website is not the place to discuss why 700-odd sub-postmasters suffered for so long after being wrongly accused of fraud and dishonesty. There is plenty of diligent reporting on the subject. This has gained more attention recently.

I suspect the all-encompassing nature of COVID meant the scandal got somewhat lost. However, the Evening Standard‘s Leader column and Isabel Hardman at The Spectator, amongst others, have noted the importance of ITV’s “Mr Bates vs The Post Office” in returning the scandal to public prominence. That really should not be the case. The issues began in 1999.

Per the Evening Standard Leader:

It should not have taken a docu-drama to galvanise matters, to alert us to the single biggest scandal in public affairs in a generation. We knew that lives were ruined — some postmasters killed themselves — and that innocent people lost their good name and livelihoods.

Hardman wrote:

In lots of ways, it is fantastic that ITV’s series has created this pressure. But I’m not sure that politics should really be so tidal that its senior figures only start to worry when a mass market drama comes out more than 20 years after a scandal began. Have the incentives for acting really been so low up to this point that ministers have been content with the glacial pace of the government’s response?

If you want to hear about some of the politics surrounding all this, I discussed it with co-host Emma Burnell on the latest “House of Comments” episode.

Do not doubt that more repercussions are on the way. Furthermore, never underestimate the power of media and art to raise a stink where one is required. Drama has the ability to change perceptions. As “Mr Bates vs The Post Office” shows, it can highlight issues in ways reporting cannot.

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