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The uncomfortable truth about Philpott and welfare

The link between welfarism and the Philpott case is clear. If only the left would admit it, then we could think about how to address some of the problems the most vulnerable in our society face

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A problem: How do we solve it?
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Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 5 April 2013 10:38

When the left try each and every trick in the book to shut down debate, that is when you know you're onto something. Right-wingers who have sought to link the case of Mick Philpott – jailed for life for the manslaughter of six of his own children – to Britain’s broken welfare system have been subjected to vilification of untold levels over recent days. Why? Because they have a point.

The response to that Daily Mail front page, condemning Philpott as the “vile product of welfare UK”, has been as hypocritical as it has been hysterical. Time and time again the Guardian has asked “do cuts kill?”, TV darling Owen Jones links the deaths of disabled people to Coalition policy in just about every other column, yet when the right “politicise” a tragedy they are vile and disgusting.

Let us try to take a step back from the hand-wringing, from the emotional name-calling, and look at some facts.

By all accounts, Mick Philpott plainly had no interest in finding work. He is estimated to have received the equivalent of a £100,000-a-year salary in benefits. His fecklessness saw him father 17 children by five different women. When his former mistress took five of those children away from him, it cost Philpott £1,000-a-month in lost welfare payments.

The jury agreed with the prosecution that part of his plan was to frame the mistress in order that the children would return to his custody, taking their benefits with them. In other words, money was a motive. During sentencing, Mrs Justice Thirlwall specifically noted how the benefits due to Philpott’s wife and mistress were paid directly into his account.

This is not spin; these are cold, hard, indisputable facts. This is not political point-scoring peddled by the right-wing press; this is evidence heard in a court of law endorsed by judge and jury.

The welfare state did not kill those six children. Regardless of the straw man built by the left, no one would dispute that Mick Philpott is the man ultimately responsible for this evil crime. But that does not mean the welfare state was not a factor in the tragedy.

When the Mail describes him as a “product” of welfarism, when Guido says the welfare state was an “accomplice” in this crime, and when George Osborne says the case raises questions about benefit culture, they are making a perfectly coherent, reasonable arguments based on what was heard in court.

The perverse disincentives forged by the excesses of welfarism created the conditions in which Philpott could control those close to him. He could not have lived the life he did, he could not have ruined the lives he did, without the welfare state. This is the uncomfortable truth.

In no way do I believe that the many negative consequences of welfarism were planned by the left; I actually believe that the welfare lobby has every good intention in the world. But is simply, sadly, misguided.

Yet they do themselves no favour when they insist on staying blind in the face of criticism, screaming shame at their political opponents rather than engaging in reasoned debate.

The link between welfarism and the Philpott case is there for all to see. If only the left would admit it, then we could think about how to address some of the problems the most vulnerable in our society face.

Alex Wickham is The Commentator's UK Political Editor and a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He is a contributor to their column in The Sun newspaper. He tweets at @WikiGuido

Read more on: Mick Philpott, Labour and welfare, the welfare state, British welfare, British welfare state, welfare, welfare dependency, and welfare state
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