Big picture disaster
I’d like to start with a big thank you to everyone who has signed up to the secret email over the last week or so – it always amazes me how people find their way to doing so when we’re being a bit quiet. Rebecca and I have been quite quiet for the last week and yet the ranks of secret emailers have been swelled by yet more generous souls. We are humbled and grateful.
Although Rebecca and I have been quiet, we have kept busy. We divvied up the three days the inquiry was sitting between us and produced a podcast – Byers Beware – summing everything up. I put it up less than an hour ago, so it’s still warm. Please have a listen – we’ve covered everything you need to know about this week so you too can be a walking expert.
Like a shop, you say?
A couple of interesting things came from former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Byers evidence. Firstly the Post Office had no real idea of the realities of a retail environment, to the extent the government insisted they put a director with some retail experience on the board (and) different side of the same coin – there was no one at the Post Office who had any real understanding of what Horizon was about to inflict on Subpostmasters.
The BBC has written up Stephen Byers evidence here.
We also had our first female witness of Phase 2 – Dr Sarah Graham (which I think says a lot about the IT world, Post Office management and the civil service in the late 90s), and we also heard evidence from Sir Adrian Montague – an industry titan brought in to help the government with its PFI projects. He concluded (essentially) that the Horizon/Pathway project was a disaster because the initial PFI deal was so badly specced, Fujitsu/ICL had the upper hand from the moment it was signed. Something Dr Graham reflected on in her evidence.
Oh, and we also found out Sir Tony Blair had submitted a witness statement to the inquiry. You can read it here.
Karl writes again
If listening to a podcast is too much like hard work, you can always read Computer Weekly’s dispatches from the inquiry with Chief Reporter Karl Flinders watching on. Here are his pieces on Charles Cipione’s evidence from last week;
and from this week:
If it’s Monday it must be Norwich
My thanks to the lovely people of Norwich (and environs) who came out in terrible weather to see me and the indomitable Ian Warren talk about the Post Office scandal at the Playhouse theatre. These events involve quite a bit of work, so it was delight to see so many people come along and say hello. I am also deeply grateful to Ian (pictured below) who gave up his time to explain his experience at the hands of the Post Office, his conviction and the journey to getting it quashed. Ian was one at the original meeting of Subpostmasters at the village hall in Fenny Compton when the Justice for Subpostmasters’ Alliance was born in 2009. He’s had quite a journey, and I don’t mind telling you, he is an absolute diamond.
Eleanor Shaikhs out another FOI goldmine
Campaigner Eleanor Shaikh has produced another striking FOI result – on this occasion asking for, and eventually getting a number of Paula Vennells’ CEO notes to the Post Office Board – I haven’t had time to go through them all but there’s some dynamite in here, not least because the period these notes cover are right in the middle of what I call the Post Office’s Aggressive Bat**** Denial Phase. The delusion dripping from these notes are striking.
Sorry to keep plugging it, but if you fancy buying all your friends and relatives the updated paperback version of The Great Post Office Scandal I would be enormously grateful. If you click here and use the following code:
at checkout, Bath Publishing will remove £4 off the £13.99 cover price, which essentially negates the P&P charge.
I spent part of yesterday at the RNIB audiobook studios recording the updated chapters for the Great Post Office Scandal Audiobook, so it should be out soon.
The new chapters have been added to the ebook, and everyone who has bought the ebook, audiobook and the hardback are entitled to free copies of the new chapters – we’re just working out exactly how we can make that happen! Though if you just want pdfs of the extra chapters – email me by hitting reply to this newsletter and I’ll send them straight through.
Right – I’m diving off to watch the football with a bunch of over-excited 11 year old boys and their dads!
Have a great weekend.