A woman who spent more than three decades working for the Post Office is planning to stand against Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey – a former postal affairs minister – at the next general election.
Yvonne Tracey, who said ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office had made her “very sad” and “very angry”, lives in Sir Ed’s constituency of Kingston and Surbiton in southwest London.
The 68-year-old grandmother said she cannot allow him to “stand again unchallenged”.
Hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were wrongly held responsible for accounting errors created by faulty software.
Those affected by the Horizon IT scandal are “still not hearing the truth”, Ms Tracey told Sky News.
They “still haven’t got justice” and “haven’t got answers”, she said. “Some of them haven’t had their names cleared. I just felt I had to do something to help them.”
Sir Ed, who was postal minister between 2010 and 2012 during the coalition government, refused to meet sub-postmaster Alan Bates, whom the ITV drama is named after, saying in a short letter that it “wouldn’t serve any purpose”.
According to Ms Tracey, a sub-postmaster who ran a post office in Sir Ed’s constituency lost his home, his business and attempted to take his own life on more than one occasion after being caught up in the scandal.
She said: “He tried three times to get in touch with Sir Ed and every time he was turned away, refused or ignored.”
The Liberal Democrats said the sub-postmaster lived outside Sir Ed’s constituency and parliamentary convention meant he was therefore unable to get involved in the case.
Asked if the Post Office scandal would still be on people’s minds during the general election campaign, Ms Tracey said she thought it would.
“I think people are so angry over this. I’d love to think by the time the election came it was all done – they’d all have their compensation and be living happily after.
“But we all know it’s not going to happen that quick. It’s been two decades so far.”
Ms Tracey was elected to Kingston Council in 2022 and represents the local residents group.
The main political parties in Kingston previously accused the group of Islamophobia and “divisive campaigning”.
But Ms Tracey said the allegations “really annoyed” her and had led to legal action.
Davey did later meet Mr Bates
Sir Ed did later meet Mr Bates and was the first minister on public record to do so.
It is understood he then asked his officials to follow up on the concerns raised by the sub-postmaster at their meeting.
Speaking previously to Sky News, Sir Ed said: “I wish I’d known then what we all know now. The Post Office was lying on an industrial scale to me and other ministers.
“When I met Alan Bates and listened to his concerns, I put those concerns to officials in my department, to the Post Office and to the National Federation of Postmasters and it’s clear they all were lying to me.”
Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union for civil servants, branded Sir Ed’s comments “outrageous” and said they were an “act of desperation from a former minister trying to save his own skin”.
“Ed Davey goes beyond what is reasonable to expect from a former minister,” he told Sky News. “If he’s going to repeat this he needs to back up his accusations.”
‘I was taken out in handcuffs’
Arfan Aslam can remember the pride he felt when he became a sub-postmaster, writes Sky News correspondent Shingi Mararike.
In his early 20s, he was continuing a family tradition by running a local business. “At the time I was over the moon, because it was like a professional job – it was like a life-changing opportunity,” he said.
Within weeks, that dream had turned into a nightmare. He was arrested and escorted out of the post office in front of his younger brother, who was working with him at the time.
“They’ve taken me out in handcuffs, marched me out of my own post office, in front of these people,” he said.
“Made me look like a criminal. I let my mum and dad down and everything. It broke my heart.”
Arfan said life did not get any easier for him when he left prison. The father-of-three was forced to repay more than £53,000 while he struggled to find work and claimed benefits.
His close-knit family helped him pay off the debts, and now with the Horizon scandal making headlines, he will soon be pursuing compensation, while hoping to have his conviction overturned.
“Any bit of money would help, but we cannot take away the pain and the 22 years of suffering,” he said.
“No bit of money can change that.”