The prime minister claims to be “sorry” about the Horizon scandal - “the greatest miscarriage of justice in British history”. MPs across parliament echo him. Unprecedented legislation is to be put into place ASAP, to exonerate and compensate (but not by much!) all postmaster/mistress victims of the crooked, government-owned “Post Office Limited”.
These politicians, who mostly stood by while the government’s POL appointees stole the livelihoods of thousands of sub-postmasters - and in some cases drove them to early death or suicide - now claim to be shocked. Never mind that this scandal only came to their attention because the ITV drama “Mr Bates versus the Post Office”, has attracted such huge audiences, i. e. , lots of potential voters...
“British justice, no justice! ”
Sure, the Horizon scandal is shocking. But it’s been continuing, shockingly, for 25 very long years!
The prosecution, jailing and the theft of the life-savings of innocent postmasters by the Post Office has taken place under the watch of every single government since the faulty Horizon accounting system was knowingly installed in Post Offices in 1999: under Blair, Brown, Cameron-Clegg, Cameron, May, Johnson (Truss) and now Sunak...
Sunak didn’t even want to bring in this new law to quash postmasters’ convictions, because, he said, it would mean Parliament was overriding the Great Independent British Judiciary... The argument went that the “independent” Crown Prosecution Service (formerly Keir Starmer’s hunting ground) should rather take over the job of clearing the postmasters’ names - since most of them had been convicted via the PO’s special power of private prosecution.
In the event this hasn’t happened. But the premise is, that had the CPS and good old “normal”, “independent”, British justice heard the postmasters’ cases in the first place, they’d never have been treated this way...
As if the law can ever be independent of “who rules” and who thus benefits! As if other shocking miscarriages of justice haven’t been perpetrated by this very Crown - and still are!
Like the convictions (confessions extracted under torture!), in the late 1970s of the Guildford 4, Maguire Family and the Birmingham Six, all falsely accused of terrorist bombings during the so-called Northern Irish Troubles, purely for political expediency. These innocent victims of “independent” British justice spent between 14 and 16 years in prison... to be released only in 1991 by the Appeal Court.
As for “inquiries” to get justice for victims - there’s the contaminated blood scandal (1980s), the Hillsborough disaster (1989), the Bloody Sunday massacre (1972), over which the “independent” British Justice system has dragged its feet until many of those seeking recompense have died of illness or old-age; and, by the way, none of these inquiries has actually finally concluded 30, 40, 50 years later!
Blaming the real perpetrators
It may give a small amount of satisfaction, even if nothing can make up for it, to see some of the perpetrators of the Horizon scandal made to pay. The smug Paula Vennells, who was CEO of the PO from 2012-2019 deserves everything that is coming to her. This former retail boss (Argos, Dixons, Whitbread) is actually an ordained Anglican priest! Her holy vows got her a £717,500 top salary from the PO, bonuses of up to £2m and that so-called “honour” - a CBE - which she was forced to return. In the course of the Horizon scandal she lied through her teeth and thus knowingly saw postmasters accused of fraud, forcing them to pay (back) tens if not hundreds of thousands to the PO which they didn’t owe; blatant theft, helping keep the PO bank balance healthy enough to keep paying her bonuses.
Current Lib-Dem leader, the ineffectual Ed Davey who was the minister in charge of Postal Affairs from 2010 to 2012 is also getting it in the neck. He too, deserves it, but who appointed him, if not Tory PM Cameron (and co-leader, Clegg)?
Nor must it be forgotten that the acquisition of the Horizon system for the Post Office “modernisation” and restructuring was entirely down to Tony Blair - and against Post Office experts’ advice. Yes, all in the name of his PFI and slavish adherence to Thatcherite privatisation which has subsequently all but destroyed both the PO and Royal Mail.
And since he knew Horizon was dangerously faulty, Blair also made sure that running the PO would no longer be the government’s responsibility. He granted it arm's-length autonomy and its unaccountable bosses full control!
When asked what she wanted to happen now, one of the subpostmistresses answered that she wanted the Post Office to be “gone”. She is right. A real postal service under public control needs to be rebuilt. But of course that can’t happen under this class-led capitalist system where the state rules to the benefit of the capitalists and to the detriment of the rest of us. So yes, the Post Office needs to be abolished - but so does the system which created it. Then we can start again, on a different basis: a socialist basis - and it’s never been more urgent.