It’s exhausting to listen to something concerning the Post Office scandal with out being outraged on the method harmless individuals have been handled by a system stacked towards them. The bosses of a strong establishment merely didn’t imagine and didn’t take heed to its individuals.
More than 700 sub-postmasters and postmistresses have been wrongly convicted of theft, false accounting and fraud. Democracies are supposed to shield abnormal individuals from this type of ordeal, so it’s affordable to ask why Britain’s political leaders have been so sluggish to talk up, not to mention act.
The reply goes to the guts of the weak point of contemporary social gathering politics in Britain, and the results of the polarisation that drives it.
If that is “one of many best miscarriages of justice in historical past”, as prime minister Rishi Sunak claims, there may be an intriguing query as to precisely why mainstream politics solely appears outraged about it now. After all, the story was damaged by Computer Weekly 14 years in the past. It has been the topic of an in-depth BBC podcast helmed by Nick Wallis, and has acquired common consideration within the journal Private Eye. It has been raised a number of instances in parliament, and there may be even an official inquiry slowly working its method by what occurred.
The Post Office scandal has been largely denied the eye it deserves. Until, that’s, ITV broadcast a drama primarily based on the story which was watched by 9 million individuals throughout a sluggish information week in early January. But why did it take a tv mini-series to spur political leaders (and journalists) into motion?
Tragic however not ‘helpful’
There are two observations concerning the behaviour of politicians in current days that maybe inform us one thing concerning the nature of contemporary social gathering political democracy. The first is that one thing being incorrect or unjust, even on an epic scale, is an inadequate precondition for political motion.
The victims of the Post Office scandal have lacked a constituency. Their trigger didn’t establish with a celebration or motion, and the systemic failure of the establishment didn’t present handy proof for any facet of any variety of up to date political cleavages identifiable in Britain. Taking on the trigger would do nothing to additional any present nationwide arguments about, say, immigration or taxation, by giving ammunition for one facet to wreck the opposite. Consequently, it remained current however largely suppressed beneath the floor of fashionable consideration.
The second remark is that now it has so dramatically damaged by to the highest of the agenda, the story is feeding “politics as common” in a method that it failed to take action for all these years. It has turn out to be an inexpensive weapon of social gathering warfare. Political leaders and partisan hacks are scrambling to make use of the scandal for their very own benefit.
None was extra opportunist than Conservative deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, who used prime minister’s inquiries to name for the Liberal Democrat chief, Ed Davey, to “clear his desk” for his half in what occurred.
Aside from the rest, Anderson could have had not less than half his thoughts on the electoral menace the Lib Dems at the moment pose to susceptible Conservative MPs. Davey has been moderately self-critical of his time as Post Office minister through the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition authorities. He has acknowledged that he ought to have achieved extra, or been extra sceptical of what he was being instructed by officers and the Post Office which, he says, was “mendacity on an industrial scale”.
But Kevin Hollinrake, the present Post Office minister, has held the workplace since October 2022 – and he has no extra substantive info at this time than he did a fortnight in the past. Yet he has solely acted decisively now, a couple of days after the tv drama aired – at a second when the one choice left was to intervene within the unbiased choices of the courts.
This is just not the one instance of petty social gathering politics. There has been different daft populist remark together with from Nigel Farage, who’s demanding to know why Labour chief Keir Starmer did nothing about this scandal when he was director of public prosecutions. The reply, as Farage and others know effectively, is easy: these have been non-public prosecutions introduced by the Post Office.
The wheels of justice have now lastly begun turning and the facility of the state deployed. But it’s only as a result of an ITV drama has made this injustice related to on a regular basis social gathering politics, after greater than a decade. For the victims whose lives have been wrecked by this horrible scandal, it’s welcome information, after all. But it illustrates a daunting blind spot within the functioning of at this time’s divisive democracy.
Stephen Barber doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.