Benefit of the doubt
The conviction of the Philpotts for benefit-fuelled manslaughter was an extraordinary bit of timing for those who want to feel all right about the government’s benefits reform starting this week, which will make massive public savings at the expense of the worst-off people in Britain.
On the Today programme this morning, AN Wilson argued that the crime was a product of the over-generous benefits system. His opposite number argued that this was offensive to people on benefits, which I’m sure it was, but it would also have been nice to hear it pointed out that it was also illogical and ill-informed.
If someone kills to get money out of the benefit system, and therefore the system is to blame, then by the same logic the great train robbery was the product of the transport system. The Philpotts were “products” of the benefit system in the same way that Harold Shipman was a product of the medical establishment, and the Soham murders were the inevitable result of employing caretakers in schools.
Wilson says the killings were the result of “the left and the church” leaving families “to languish on benefits for generations”. In fact the number of working age families where two generations have never worked, according to 2012 figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is 0.1%.
And the majority of benefits go not to people who can’t or who won’t work, they go to people who work but still can’t get by.
The Philpotts are not representative of anyone. Using their crime to justify this month’s benefit changes is like using Nick Gleason’s cheating to shut down the stock exchange.