The government is now ‘under pressure’ over the Post Office Horizon IT scandal. The pressure comes in the form of a petition calling for Paula Vennells, the former chief executive of the Post Office, to lose her CBE. It has garnered more than 920,000 signatures as of this evening. Then there’s the push from a number of MPs for the compensation process for the victims to be sped up, and for those responsible in the Post Office and Fujitsu to be identified and held to account. The Sunday papers carry reports that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk is examining ways of exonerate those who were wrongly convicted of stealing from the Post Office.
The reason the pressure has built to the extent that Rishi Sunak is being asked questions about it is the very good ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Of course, it’s not the first time that the Post Office scandal, which began in 1999, has been politically salient, or indeed the subject of intensive reporting. Campaigning journalists at a number of publications have been writing about it for years. MPs have raised it in the House of Commons. But what’s different now is that the wider public knows about it and has been moved by the portrayal of the people whose lives were ruined by an institution that refused to face up to its own problems.
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.