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It shouldn’t have taken an ITV drama to finally exonerate victims of the Post Office Scandal

(Alamy)

3 min read

“Events, dear boy, events”. Harold Macmillan didn’t know how right he was.

The Prime Minister made a very welcome announcement last week that new primary legislation will ensure those convicted in this horrendous Horizon scandal are swiftly exonerated and compensated. 

It is a happy ending to a rising tide of public fury over this miscarriage of justice.

The intensity of feeling over this injustice faced by hundreds of postmasters and postmistresses and the public outcry have, as we all know, been brought to life by the remarkable ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

And in a surprising turn of events, I found myself making a cameo appearance in the show, portraying my past self from a decade ago. Originally asking permission for my likeness, some casting director must have thought that as I didn’t have any hair then, I could still make a decent approximation of myself. 

A day on set brought the burning anger I felt at the injustice flooding back, and between recording and release of the programme, I have wondered why the deliverance of justice has been so slow. 

I acknowledge my own sense of regret over not pursuing the Post Office scandal more vigorously after my appearance before the select committee. It’s a humbling realisation that the world is so fast-moving, and government so large now, that one’s attention span is always being dragged to and fro by the news cycle.

This is one of the other great victories from this scandal; the primacy of Parliament

The question arises: Could Parliament have done more to overturn the injustice of the Post Office scandal? As a member of Parliament, I grapple with the notion that our highest legislative body bears a profound responsibility to hold the government accountable and rectify systemic injustices. 

This is one of the other great victories from this scandal; the primacy of Parliament. Over multiple issues, from Rwanda to this, too much of what the Telegraph’s Madeline Grant has called “America Brain” has infected our way of thinking. There is no strict separation of powers in the UK as here Parliament is sovereign. That is why the PM’s announcement of emergency legislation is so welcome – and I note that very-online Twitter lawyers aren’t complaining about meddling in the judiciary from this decision.

The drift to agree with officials without challenge, owing to the enormous ministerial workload caused by a state that is trying to meddle in too many areas, swamps ministers and doesn’t allow them the breathing space to consider issues. For example: why on earth would so many postmasters suddenly change their behaviours? It never made sense!

And the way legislation now often pushes scrutiny from Parliament onto regulators is, in my opinion, an unwelcome development, and part of the structural reasons why it has taken a TV drama to highlight such a problem. If government recommitted itself to doing fewer, more important things better, and not meddling as much in society or the economy, maybe we wouldn’t have let this happen. Perhaps this will help remind Parliament that since it is sovereign, it is able to act with swiftness and confidence to the betterment of our constituents. 

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