Sunday 30 December 2018

Paula Vennells' CBE

Paula Vennells, Chief Executive of the Post Office, has been given a CBE in the New Year's Honours List.

According to the Post Office "she is being recognised for her work on diversity and inclusion at Post Office, her commitment to the social purpose at the heart of the business and her dedication in putting the customer first."

No mention of her presiding over a regime which has seen dozens of her Subpostmasters "summarily terminated", prosecuted or criminalised.

Paula Vennells' CBE might be an explicit mark of approval from the government or it might not. A lot of timeservers get honours simply for hanging around long enough. But the amount of private anger this award appears to have generated is illuminating.

Publicly - save a few tweets from the CWU and its reps - nothing.

If you don't want someone to be given a CBE because, they have, in your view, done a bad thing, you need to campaign very hard to let people know what that bad thing is, so that giving them an award would seem politically toxic.

Then, if they do get an award, you issue a press release to MPs and all relevant news organisations letting them know exactly why you think it is a bad idea this person has got an award and listing the bad things they are supposed to have done. And then make yourself available for interview, just in case a bored news editor thinks your hot take might be more interesting than the usual parade of worthies and celebrities.

At the very least the award is an opportunity to remind influential people what the story behind the group litigation is, why it is still a live issue and why this honour more than say, John Redwood's, might be a controversial one.

It might also mean that news editors, when the judgment on the first Bates v Post Office trial comes round, think: "hang on - didn't Paula Vennells get a gong recently?"

I can only assume Paula Vennells' CBE has been welcomed by the NFSP, the JFSA, its members, Freeths and its litigants. After all, if  they had a problem with it, they would have said, wouldn't they?


UPDATE 31st Jan - The JFSA very much does have a problem with Paula Vennells' CBE. They have issued this statement:
"The JFSA is stunned at how inappropriate it was to award a CBE to Paula Vennells, CEO of Post Office Limited, an organization she leads which has brought so much suffering to many Subpostmasters, their families and communities.  How the destruction and financial ruin of so many lives entitles someone in total denial of the failures of her company, to an award usually reserved for those who have made a positive distinguished or notable contribution, is beyond understanding.  Surely they have made a mistake?"