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Opinion

The job’s in the Post

13 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Mr Bates vs The Post Office. Image: ITV

Ben Wildsmith

The Post Office scandal is revealing in many ways. We could go at it from any angle and find something emblematic of the breathtaking awfulness of the UK in 2024.

There’s the incompetence, of course. We take it as a given that anything north of Calais and south of Oslo will be run by people whose arse/elbow differentiation skills are non-existent.

Then there’s the dishonesty: if something goes wrong then it’s traditional here on Chaos Island to deny it entirely and then fail to cover it up with all the criminal guile of a Labrador that’s knocked over the Christmas tree.

Don’t forget the cruelty. We pride ourselves on an institutionally callous approach to the powerless on these shores, anything less might open the door to ‘empathy’ and who knows where that might lead?

Add in the exciting innovation of unthinking obedience to technology and this latest shambles looks like the very model of a modern major farcical. Britastrophe Deluxe.

Primetime

We have, at least, now discovered the means by which ordinary citizens can seek redress in sovereign Britain. All of us, the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, can alert the powers-that-be to injustices we have suffered merely by having ITV broadcast a four-part drama about them at primetime.

Provided your problem can be personified by Toby Jones in such a way that advertising revenue isn’t adversely affected, you can be assured that statesmen of the calibre of *checks notes* Nadim Zahawi will leap to your defence with the campaigning zeal of a young Martin Luther King Jr.

Because, make no mistake about it, our politicians are not to blame for this tragedy. No, the fault lies with Fujitsu which still receives £100 million per year in government contracts and whose chairman coincidentally donated £376 000 to the Conservative Party.

Most particularly to blame, though, is the Official Baddie, Paula Vennells. Just look at her, oozing total blameness from the front of newspapers that puzzlingly haven’t given a toss about this matter over the decades it has been rumbling on. Strip her CBE! Take back her pension! Burn the witch!

Culpability

Postwoman Paula and her black and white severance package is the face of culpability. She’s so much more besides, though, and her extraordinary working life offers a clue to how the UK has become so uniquely dysfunctional.

Her career has included stints at L’Oreal (in charge of concealer, presumably), Dixons (defunct), Argos, the NHS, and Whitbread (whether she was responsible for onsite piss-ups remains unclear as we go to press).

She’s been a member of the Future High Street Forum, A non-executive board member at the Cabinet Office (eh?), on the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm, a school governor, a member of the government’s Financial Inclusion Policy Forum, a trustee for the Hymns Ancient & Modern Group, part of the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group and, since 2006, a non-stipendiary minister at the church of St Owen, Bromham, in the Diocese of St Albans.

Blimey, Paula, have a sit down, will you?

In 2017, her church positions led the nation’s busiest woman to be interviewed as a candidate for Bishop of London (presumably on a part-time basis).

You have to wonder how a person could possibly amass even cursory knowledge of so many roles and the implications they might have for those affected by their execution.

She’s hardly alone, though. Her predecessor in charge of the Post Office, when it was still part of Royal Mail, was Adam Crozier. His career path went from Pedigree Petfoods to The Daily Telegraph to Saatchi & Saatchi before running the Football Association for two years.

After the Royal Mail, Crozier took over at ITV which managed to omit any mention of his tenure as CEO of Royal Mail in this week’s drama, despite his having been in post for seven of the years covered in it.

Adam’s side-gigs include board membership at Camelot and Debenhams(defunct), as well as chairmanships at ASOS, Vue Cinemas, the Kantar Group and Whitbread (see previous joke).

Specialist knowledge

There is a class of person who is assumed to be capable of running anything at all, regardless of specialist knowledge.

We remember George Osborne’s bewildering path from the Treasury to editor at the Evening Standard and Chairman of the British Museum amongst other roles too numerous to mention. His Wikipedia page has an entire section entitled ‘career diversification’.

We have, this week, seen the terrible consequences meted out to ordinary people whom this country deems to have done their jobs incompetently or dishonestly.

Meanwhile, at the apex of national life, there is a game of musical chairs in which a punchy Powerpoint presentation is enough to secure leading positions at institutions about which the players know precisely nothing.


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John Bowen
John Bowen
1 month ago

Voltaire: It is dangerous to be right when those in power are wrong’

Susan Garvin
Susan Garvin
1 month ago

“We have, this week, seen the terrible consequences meted out to ordinary people whom this country deems to have done their jobs incompetently or dishonestly.” I note the key word here, i.e. ‘ordinary’. What epithet would we choose for the others, the presumably *not-ordinary*, who every day are doing their jobs of running this country incompetently etc? Be[k]nighted???

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

For any hope of real change we need an elected head of state instead of hereditary monarchy and general elections on proportional representation basis, then the uk will be in a better position to address all the failures of the present incumbents!

Steve Heaney
Steve Heaney
1 month ago

You just get better and better Mr. Wildsmith.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

Its not just the post office cover up its also the cover of Hillsborough Miners strike which i was part of the medical records of the soldiers used in the nuclear tests on easter island locked away and many more the Union parties are all corrupt and rotten to the core greed brought in by Thatcher now we have thatchers bratts we need to get out of the disunited kingdom before it drags us down with it

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