Post Office, a brand synonymous with trust and community. Judging from the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, that is debatable to say the least. The scandal is an omni-shambles: a faulty IT system called Horizon, mismanagement, lies (more lies), possible fraud… The result? Hundreds of postmasters’ lives and health blighted by years of stress and worry, livelihoods ruined and, tragically, even suicide.
A petition to strip former CEO Paula Vennells of her CBE now has more than 1 million sign-ups. Heartening, for sure, but not a reason to say <Job done>. Many still haven’t had their convictions for fraud and theft overturned, Reuters says. Others have yet to get compensation. So here are 10 quick, easy (and free) ideas of how you can support the postmasters.
We’re all rightly furious at the problems with Horizon, the legal cases and the reaction from the Post Office – but what can we do?Johnny Jenkins, LBC News
1) Sign (and share) the petition
Obvious as all heck, to be sure. (Time it will take you: an estimated 10 seconds.)
(Yes, Paula Vennells got a gong for services to the post office – your eyes do not deceive you.)
You can share the petition from the page on 38 Degrees, the campaign and petition website, to Facebook, Twitter (now known as X) and by email. (Estimated 2 minutes to add to Facebook, for example, and add a few words about why you are doing so.)
Angry? Frustrated? Outraged? Appalled? All of those sound entirely reasonable reactions.
2) Post a star rating on IMDb
You need an account on IMDb to do this, but you can create that in seconds by choosing the <log in using Google> option for instance.
Why bother? Well, even looking at the page will help give the drama – kudos to ITV Studios and Little Gem for making this four-part mini-series. Adding a review can’t hurt the profile of the series, encouraging more people to watch it.
You can view it for free, gratis, kostenlos, on ITV.
My previous blog: Food, farming, frugal living: my focus for 2024. Here’s a flavour
3) Oh, watch the mini-series!
That probably goes without saying, to watch the four-parter starring Toby Jones (he of The Detectorists) and a great cast of actors who you’ll recognise from Downton Abbey, Coronation Street or Happy Valley.
(Do you also make the <S/he looks really familiar… what else have they been in?> to your dog, partner, family member who’s passing by. It can take a while for the penny to drop.
“As a country we feel unheard by our politicians and by our government,” Patrick Spence, executive producer, said on BBC Radio 4, Mon 8 Jan 2024. “This drama seems to have [..] tapped into that rage, because the sub-postmasters are an extreme example of people that have not been heard.”
It took me ages to place Lesley Nichol, for example, as the feisty and wonderful head cook in Downton. I’m no TV or acting critic, but I thought she was great in Mr Bates vs the Post Office too.)
This will take you a little while, as each of the four episodes lasts four hours.
I always hesitate to recommend books, films, TV series… After all, it can be very subjective. Not in this case though. 240 minutes, very well spent.
Watching the show might well lead to frustration, anger, outrage, disbelief – in short, a general spitting of feathers. Definitely. How about we direct all that into quick, simple actions of support. And repeat.
4) On Instagram? Look up Mr Bates
There are quite a few posts about it, whether by the actors who star in it, or for instance Virgin Radio – Toby Jones did an interview about the series with broadcaster Graham Norton.
Liking the posts you see on Instagram may be as superficial as anything… but it will get more eyes on them. And who knows, some of those people’s eyes might direct their outraged fingers to the petition.
Estimated time: 2 minutes (OK, maybe 5 minutes once you add a comment or two.)
Please watch and please please get angry [...] [s]hame on everyone who didn't step up & admit what was happening -- Shaun Dooley, who plays sub-postmaster Michael Rudkin in the drama, says on Instagram.
From the archive: Instagram, one year on… creative outlet or vortex of pointlessness?
5) YouTube: promote the petition in a comment
There are quite a few interviews or excerpts on YouTube about Mr Bates vs the Post Office. That chat between Toby Jones and Graham Norton, for example.
It’s hugely positive and uplifting, in the sense that Alan Bates, the character I play, […] achieved this extraordinary thing of mobilising all of these very isolated postmasters and creating a movement which took on [… and is] in the process of beating the Post Office – actor Toby Jones speaking on Virgin Radio
“To date, 93 out of 736 sub-postmasters have had their names cleared”
Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story, ITV, 42mins40
While you’re there on YouTube, why not add a link to the Paula Vennells petition in a comment?
That will take you an estimated 15 seconds.
6) Seen Mr Bates? (WhatsApp groups)
“I don’t care that Mary can’t make it to pilates this week,” a droll friend back in south London says about never-ending WhatsApp updates.
Fair enough, she makes a valid point – fewer messages can be more.
Anyhow, you might get chatting about the show on your immediate family or extended family WhatsApp group. I’ll be sharing this blog to my cousins, for example.
Whether that leads to comments below (don’t mind if you do) and/or extra sign-ups to the 38 Degrees petition is beyond my control.
Encouraging people to sign is not. Some may find the nudges or suggestions irksome. Irksome to some, less so to others? I seem to be OK with that.
7) Send a message to the sub-postmasters
JHSA is the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance. If you’ve seen the show, that’s the group set up by Alan Bates, with meetings in a village hall in Fenny Compton, Warwickshire.
There’s a page on the JHSA website with a contact form. Writing a short message of support might take two minutes.
The Post Office helpline told each of the people who phoned – stressed, worried and frustrated by shortfalls in their sales that made no sense – <You’re the only one who’s having this problem with Horizon>.
A group of the <only ones> got together, campaigned, fought, helped each other. I imagine they still have plenty of work ahead. Who knows, getting (hopefully hundreds by now) messages of support and encouragement might just help them to keep going.
8) On LinkedIn? Speak up, now
Many of the posts about the Post Office scandal on LinkedIn focus on the petition, including reactions of course to the ITV drama series.
Questions arise, inevitably, about the role accountants played (or should have played) in rooting out behaviour by the Post Office that had such a devastating impact on sub-postmasters.
How is it possible that external auditors to the Post Office’s accounts didn’t spot anything amiss? That’s a question I add in a comment on one post.
Even if you only have a minute or two to spare, liking/loving/supporting a few posts about the scandal will get those posts more attention. Who knows, you might even find some of them insightful, and add a lightbulb rather than a like.
Incidentally, if you’re on the lookout for a timeline of what happened when, here’s one published by the BBC.
9) Contact your Police & Crime Commissioner
Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police, known as the Met, are “investigating potential fraud offences arising out of these prosecutions”, for example “monies recovered from sub-postmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions,” ITV News reports.
You can find yours here on the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners website.
I’m about to email mine (thanks to writing this blog) asking them to give whatever support they can to the Met’s investigation. Also, what steps are Kent police taking to encourage more sub-postmasters affected by the scandal to come forwards?
Asking those questions will not make a blind bit of difference, some may say. This, of course, is entirely possible.
Give my voice and power away by *not* sending the email. No thank you!
10) Support your local Post Office
Last but not least. Sub-postmasters working now probably know many people affected by this scandal. Maybe they themselves have suffered.
Sure, stamps are expensive these days and we send fewer greeting cards, let alone letters. Surely we can run to a packet of mints or a Freddo the frog while in our local Post Office though. While there, if you’re feeling chatty – or can persuade yourself to be – at least say you’ve signed the petition.
A small act – like the ones mentioned in this blog – can sometimes have a big impact, after all.
Image credits: Mohamed_hassan, pexels on Pixabay; Ed Leszczynskl, Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash
*What did you think of Mr Bates vs the Post Office?
What’s the most effective step to take to lend your support to those affected?
My target is for at least five readers to comment below. Thank you!*