It is a long time – an incredibly long time in fact – that a television drama has moved the nation to tears, and caused an outcry of rage that has united the country in a way that hasn’t happened since the Second World War.

The four-part drama, ITV’s Mr Bates vs The Post Office was extremely powerful, and brilliantly portrayed the injustice suffered by a group of innocent sub-postmasters and their families. It was a hounding injustice, which, as the programme depicted, amounted to corporate thuggery.

Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to two local heroes featured in the programme: South Warnborough’s wonderful and loveable sub-postmaster Jo Hamilton, and her former North East Hants MP, James (now Lord) Arbuthnot.

Jo represents just about everything that makes us feel proud of our country, and her brutal treatment by the Post Office didn’t just make our blood boil; it made it evaporate! Her prosecution was tantamount to demanding money with menaces. 

The appeal court judge described it as: “An affront to justice”. It was an affront to us all. How I wept when I saw her hugging her judgement papers outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the day her conviction was quashed.

James showed us what every good MP should be, diligent and caring for his constituent, never once fobbing her off with due process, and when she finally won her day in court, he was standing right beside her.

Secondly, I feel guilty. I remember so clearly in the  2000s, hearing almost every week, case after case of sub-postmasters being prosecuted by the Post Office for theft and false accounting, and a name – which was to become a common denominator to all of them – of a computer system; ‘Horizon’.

It didn’t take much brain-power for me to work out that something was obviously radically wrong with this system, so why has it taken the governments of six prime ministers so long to come to the same conclusion?

As it is now an election year, our three main party leaders have suddenly found plenty to say about it. Since the ITV drama was broadcast, they are all full of sympathy and understanding, with promises of speedy redress, exoneration and compensation. They speak as if the story is something new to them, yet for the past 25 years, Alan Bates has contacted “more ministers than you could shake a stick at”.

Two of the party leaders had it within their power to intervene a decade ago, yet chose to leave matters with the Post Office. We all should be reminded of the words of 19th century Liberal MP and philosopher, John Stuart Mill: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”

Mick Bradford

Peperham Road, Haslemere