Mr. Bates vs the Post Office Review

Mr. Bates

This is a difficult one for me to review objectively because the subject matter triggers me greatly. It tells the story of Alan Bates and hundreds of British subpostmasters fighting a power with limitless resources, the government. The entire story in Mr. Bates is everything Libertarians worry about in a government agency.

Basically, the Post Office installed faulty software in all their branches. The faults resulted in many subpostmasters showing accounting shortfalls. The government, along with the software developer, hid the faults, blamed the subpostmasters and sent them to jail, took their money, and largely ruined their lives.

Eventually one subpostmaster, the titular Mr. Bates, managed to raise enough ruckus to bring the attention to the public. It only took twenty-five years. Yep, this whole mess started in 1999 and isn’t fully resolved to this day.

Sadly, my job today isn’t to lambaste the British Post Office and government, it’s to review a television series, and that is what I will do.

Lots of Characters

Mr. Bates starts at the beginning of the disaster when Alan Bates loses his post office because of accounting shortfalls for which he refuses to accept responsibility. He asks for audits, software checks, and what not but is denied.

We then start to meet some of the other subpostmasters encountering the same difficulties. This leads to the biggest problem with the series, there are a lot of characters. It’s not really anyone’s fault and I think they did an admirable job of consolidating people and keeping the total down to a reasonable number. That being said, there are a lot of stories going on at the same time and the complexity of weaving them together is no easy task.


I found the acting in Mr. Bates to be largely top-notch with Toby Jones in the lead role particularly strong. He shows his determination to see the truth prevail but also his fatigue over the course of the decades long fight. His wife, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is also quite strong in her role.

Ian Hart as Bob Rutherford is a particular standout although, as I mentioned, the acting is excellent throughout.

Cinematography, Music, and the Rest

All of the supporting features of the show were well done and believable. I was particularly impressed with the music which didn’t try to overwhelm us with emotions but simply enhanced the sometimes-traumatic story. All good work in my opinion.

The Story is the Thing

Mr. Bates is not a big budget, high-production, action movie. The horribly miscarriage of justice that all those subpostmasters suffered is the main star. It’s such a vile story, such a little guy against the government story, that you don’t really need anything else. I commend them for keeping it fairly simple because it could have gotten overly complex and tried too hard to manipulate the viewers emotional. It just told the story and told it properly.


Since the broadcast of Mr. Bates vs the Post Office, public awareness of the situation rose dramatically and reignited the legal proceedings, which as mentioned, continue on today. In that regard I find it impossible not to consider the show to be a spectacular success regardless of anything else.


I found myself immersed and oft-times riveted to the drama of the story. I was never bored although I suspect an audience looking for high-octane drama might find it slow-moving and somewhat dull.

A fantastic series I think well worth watching and not only because I’m a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

Privacy and the Tweeting Vending Machine

Tweeting Vending MachineThere’s what’s meant to be an light and amusing story making the rounds in the news these days about a hacking group in England that broke into a vending machine and programmed it to tweet messages about who purchased what. In England they have something called an RFID card which when used identifies the name of the person making the purchase.

A lot of comments on the story expressed the idea that it was no one’s business what food they ate and this was an invasion of their privacy.

It’s an interesting privacy issue. I agree that it’s no one’s business what I eat but there is no constitutional protection here in the United States to prevent anyone from watching your purchases and learning your dietary habits. Whenever you use any form of electronic payment there is a real trail of what you have purchased and when.

Even if you use cash to avoid such a trail there are cameras in the stores and the transactions were recorded. Anyone with appropriate rights could access the receipt from the time you were in the line and determine what you purchased. It’s perfectly legal and in many ways quite helpful. If the grocery store knows your purchasing habits they can offer you coupons for the products you use.

It’s a similar situation on the internet when you visit Amazon to purchase my latest novel, The Broken Throne (which I’m sure you’ll be doing right now, yes now, come back and finish the blog later).

When you arrive at Amazon, after you make the purchase, scroll to the bottom of the screen and note that there are a bunch of recommendations. This is because Amazon tracks you when you enter the website and keeps a forever record of all the purchases you’ve made. They correlate this against their database and algorithms offer suggestions.

The same is true when you visit almost any major website and sign-in. These daily conveniences are quite helpful and useful but they do bring forth the startling reality that our expectation of privacy does not equate to reality. You can choose to live “off the grid” but that means you don’t get access to many of the very nice things the grid offers.

Modern society allows us to keep track of vast amounts of information that would otherwise not have been available. This raises privacy concerns. Should the local law-enforcement division be aware of how much bourbon I purchase? Might it be used against me in some criminal case down the road? Might a person with a grudge against me simply broadcast the information far and wide in an attempt to embarrass me?

The answer is yes. Those things might happen. That’s why we have laws against slander and defamation. We have laws to restrain police agencies from harassing citizens.

That’s why Libertarians like myself worry when police and government agencies are given more authority in an effort to “make us safe”. I recently wrote that seizure laws are out of control in this country and that’s just one example of our liberties being eroded under the guise of protection.

One of the things I find most distressing is the absolute willingness, nay eagerness, to take away freedoms from those who support the opposite political party. Be it trying to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for taking her Constitutionally granted right to avoid self-incrimination or animal lovers using the government to destroy legitimate business.

The people of this country leap up and applaud when the rights of their political foes are stripped and, because we live in a Representative Republic, the politicians are quick to follow suit.

As far as I’m concerned; your rights are my rights. It’s just as important now as it was two-hundred and twenty-six years ago.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere