TV Review: Mr Bates v the Post Office

10 Jan

It’s not easy taking on a corporate body better funded and more powerful than yourself. In its small way my nine year battle with Sheffield Hallam University testifies to that. Many aspects of this week’s ITV offering, Mr Bates v the Post Office, resonated with that experience, albeit on a vaster and more epic scale.

(That said, Roddis v Sheffield Hallam  was an employment law milestone I’ll have you know. Try a search – here’s one of screeds of returns – for the why of that.)

Mr Bates’ stubborn fight for justice – in the face of corporate arrogance and ineptitude, lies and lawless prioritising of ‘brand’ protection over due process, never mind decency, in its treatment of hundreds of sub postmasters; some of them jailed while at least four took their own lives – chimed with my misfortunes. Let me cite two #me2  moments. One is abuse of the law, a small example being widespread use by public corporate bodies of non disclosure agreements, aka gagging clauses.

That aspect is plain as day to all who look into these things. But you need skin in the game to appreciate my second point. I speak of the Kafkaesque frustration of folk on the sharp end of what passes for reasoning by those who implement for pay the will of such leviathans. At one point in Mr Bates, a wronged sub postmistress asks, rhetorically and at her wits’ end, are they stupid or just evil?

Yup. Been there; got the t-shirt.

Anyway, if you haven’t already seen this four-parter, and have access to UK ITV, there are worse ways to spend three hours. (I binged the lot, as is my greedy wont, in one session last night.)  As is only to be expected it’s given the realist drama treatment to get bums on seats and keep ’em there, with its heroes – it’s a shame to pick from a stellar cast but Toby ‘Detectorist’ Jones as the eponymous Mr Bates is outstanding in that understated way of his –  and villains and doubtless all manner of necessary simplification. But don’t look a scandalous gift horse in the mouth I say. This is a riveting depiction of corporate infamy of the profit driven kind – is there any other? – which ruined so many lives yet ends on as uplifting a note as we could reasonably expect.

Did I mention heroes? One to come out smelling of roses is James Arbuthnot, batting in dark pin stripe for the Acceptable Face of Privilege First XI as a one-nation Tory MP. His not cricket, old chap sensibilities are sufficiently offended as to have him Take Up The Matter In The House and – let it not be said that we poor men at the gate are slow to give credit where it’s due – go the extra mile.

But does that name ring a bell? Here’s why.

Fair play has its limits, old chap. When all is said and done, we are  the ruling class.

* * *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *