Scandal… Post Office denied that anything had gone wrong until evidence was overwhelming
In 1999 the system, Horizon, was introduced and almost at once began to go wrong. Engineers inside Fujitsu, the makers, knew it was their system, but were told to shut up. By 2014 – 15 years for heaven’s sake – a total of 736 postmasters and mistresses, all completely honest and hard-working, had been accused of stealing from their tills money that belonged to the GPO.
None of them had taken a penny – but the computers were held to be infallible and sacrosanct.
They were bankrupted, ruined, fired, charged and imprisoned. And still their pleas were rebuffed. This scandal is now officially deemed “the worse miscarriage of justice in British legal history”. And that really is saying something.
You don’t even have to be a statistician, scientist or computer engineer to see the flaw. Common sense alone, now completely rejected in a society become stupid at every official level, would have reasoned that the odds on more than seven hundred postmasters who didn’t even know each other, all going “bent” simultaneously, were astronomically small.
The most truly shameful aspect, as the documentary made clear, was the universal dedication in high places to cover it all up. Fujitsu tried to silence its own engineers; the Post Office denied and denied that anything had gone wrong with Horizon until the evidence was overwhelming.
Now at last monetary compensation is being offered – but public money, our money, of course.
But how do you repair shattered lives? Those responsible, and especially those at the very top who deliberately rebuffed every attempt to clarify what had really happened, simply must be pursued, traced, identified and prosecuted.
“Malfeasance in public office” is the charge, I think. Or will our government simply sing La-la-la and face the other way? I fear exactly that.
UK needs full control of its energy supply
If one makes a prediction, ignored at the time, and it then comes true, there is usually satisfaction – but not in this case. Months ago this page lamented the stupidity of Angela Merkel in closing down Germany’s home-based energy-generation industry to import oil and gas only from Russia.
Result? Knock-kneed Germany became the main funder of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and remains so even now. A token offering of clapped-out tanks without ammunition does not even begin to compensate. We very nearly went the same way.
We still bow to the eco-wallies in refusing to start fracking even though we know limitless energy lies beneath our feet. We haver and dither over one new North Sea oil/gas well or re-opening one coal mine. Summer is upon us with its mild breezes and wind farms will not cope.
We have no choice. When this crisis is over our government must get off its backside and bring all our energy needs within the ambit of British sovereignty. But will it? As usual it looks as if some kind of bomb will be needed inside the pinstripe trousers to get really dynamic measures out of this lot.
Full control… construction work at Hinkley Point C
Slow progress of the civil service jobsworths making Britain unfit for purpose
There may well be some who feel I am too harsh in my comments on the degeneration of our Civil Service from excellent to disastrous but daily revelations bear me out.
We needed the jobsworths to get our loyal helpers out of Afghanistan as the Taliban swept back in and Biden scuttled. Half of them were left desperate at Kabul airport while their visas were being shuffled. Thank you, Foreign Office. We wanted to welcome Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing Putin’s savagery.
Many queued in Polish snow waiting for their paperwork to be finalised. Thank you Home Office. Government has admitted DVLA Swansea has simply disintegrated.
Now the Passport Office has gone the same way. That comes under the Home Office and so Priti Patel. When she complains the performance of her own department is not good enough the perm sec, Matthew Rycroft whines “You are being unkind to us.” It’s quite OK by him if the head of the Passport Office stays sipping coffee at home.
Now Michael Gove has weighed in for Priti Patel. Covid, the universal excuse for bone idleness, won’t work any more. Never mind the public, even ministers have had enough.
Patient quizmaster Chris is one in a million
One can never know how generous the Vatican is feeling in the matter of beatifications – the title Blessed to the extraordinarily patient. But maybe they should think of one for quiz host Chris Tarrant. As a devotee of quizzes, I have been glancing at re-runs of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? of 20 years ago.
The contestants pit their brains against a question my Jack Russell could answer and he or she tapping the buttons in the shortest times get their chance in the seat opposite Master Tarrant. After a little banter they get a chance to answer questions of rising value, the last being for a million pounds.
But why be amazed at the patience of Mr Tarrant? Because some contestants seem so thick. Yet the quizmaster stays affable and patient beyond the point where I would have throttled them.
The one in the chair is already the pick of the bunch. As they wrestle with “the weekday following Tuesday” before asking the audience for help, I am reminded of my old sergeant to us air cadets: “If you are the cream, Gawd ‘elp the skimmed milk.”
Back to the old ways
Last week I tried to help a little old lady. She lives alone, elderly and frightened, in a small basement flat in West London. Both her phones had gone “on the blink”. She feared that if she had a fall she would be unable to call anyone for help.
The technical problem was simple. I got a technician round to mend both machines. More complicated was to find someone to check on her regularly as I live miles away.
I tried Age Concern, which has now become Age UK. They put me on to Westminster Council Social Care. The phone rang for an hour until I had to put it down. So much for charity. So much for officialdom. At last, a kindly upstairs couple agreed to check on her regularly.
That seems to be the answer nowadays. Back to the old ways. Kindly neighbours have been looking after the old and frail since Norman times. But what happens when they go away for a week or two? You can ring the authorities until the phone melts. It probably won’t answer.
National Security Advisor Sir Stephen Lovegrove, left, with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan
Boris needs a solid pro-Britisher at the top of the National Security Council
Surely there can be no truth in the rumours in Whitehall that Sir Stephen Lovegrove, above, former perm sec. at the Ministry of Defence (who advocated the downscaling of our defences) now bizarrely elevated to National Security Adviser, counselled appeasement towards Putin over Ukraine?
It is already well known that this arch-EU fanatic proposes our subsummation into the European Defence Union. But a velvet-gloved attitude to Putin? Surely not?
The sooner we see the return to the Tory top table of former Brexit chief negotiator Lord Frost the better.
Boris Johnson, who led the Brexit campaign and has been staunch in his support for Ukraine at every level, really needs a solid pro-Britisher at the top of the National Security Council.
How Do I Know What Post Office Is Mine