Monday, 08 January 2024 15:04

Tough at the Top

Written by
in Poetry
Tough at the Top

Tough at the Top

by Paul Francis

Though Paula Vennells has this business brain
she moonlights as a handmaid of the lord -
a vicar with an eagle eye for gain.
The Post Office is happy to reward
a boss who is prepared to deal out pain
through cutting costs – her terrible swift sword
keeps slicing at the staff, cuts hard and deep.
Is that God’s work? The angels watch and weep.

Horizon was the system of IT
which found discrepancies in the accounts.
To Vennells it was all too plain to see:
the staff must be embezzling huge amounts.
She will ensure these crooks do not run free.
Directors love her, watch those profits bounce.
She gets a CBE for what she did
and trousers up a cool five million quid.

Meanwhile postmasters and postmistresses
are losing friends and family, go to jail.
They try explaining these injustices
but no-one’s seen a glitch on quite this scale.
They don’t do dialogue, modern businesses.
How could an IT system simply fail?
The staff morale is at an all-time low
but who cares? Dividends are good to go.

Post Office can afford the top-rate fee
for barristers. They play it rough.
A mother doesn’t want her child to see
the handcuffs, stops them visiting. That’s tough.
Only the postmasters, it’s claimed, can see
this data, so their guilt is clear enough.
A huge amount’s been spent to back this lie
and only one reporter’s asking why.

Inside Horizon staff know things are wrong.
A whistle-blower says techies can adjust
the data – so it doesn’t just belong
to postmasters. Management say they’ll trust
an audit team, but sing a different song
when asked for files. You can’t see them for dust.
Vennells’ façade’s intact, but underneath
the record shows she’s lying through her teeth.

Each victim was assured they were unique
but there were hundreds. It’s a can of worms.
Key evidence went missing. Hide and seek.
Turns out that this most obdurate of firms
though warned by lawyers that their case was weak
still fought it out in unrelenting terms:
“Keep driving up the costs. We shoot to kill.
They need to know they can’t afford the bill.”

For twenty years, these workers’ lives were tossed
into a nightmare where they had no say -
homes vanished, dreams demolished, futures lost.
Ninety convictions have been wiped away.
Hundreds of millions it is going to cost
to put this right. Is Vennells going to pay?
No chance. Long gone, she’s smiling, out the door.
Business as usual. Rich pick on the poor.

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Paul Francis

Paul Francis is a retired teacher, living in Much Wenlock, who's
active in the West Midlands poetry scene. His website is

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