When terrible things happen, the natural instinct is to seek an explanation, to find a reason for what happened. Sometimes there are no explanations. Sometimes there are no reasons. Sometimes bad things happen purely because evil people are at the centre of them. That is what happened in the case of the Philpott family. Six children lost their lives because of the evil doings of one man, and the inability of his weak and besotted wife to stand up to him.
This morning’s Daily Mail front page surpassed itself. It claimed that the deaths were the VILE PRODUCT OF WELFARE UK. What utter nonsense. It is possible to claim that the lifestyle led by Philpott was encouraged by a warped benefits system, but it is not possible to claim that six lives were lost because of it. That happened because of the evil intent of Mick Philpott. His criminal past demonstrates that it was his character, not the welfare system which led him to commit criminal acts.
The Sun’s first edition editorial went even further than the Mail.
I suppose at least we can rest easy in the knowledge that they have the good grace to amend it in later editions.
If we want to apportion blame, we would do better to look at a legal system which only sentenced him to seven years in prison for stabbing his then girlfriend 13 times. If he had been given Life he would never have met Mairead and never had the children in the first place.
If we want to apportion blame let us look at Mairead. Her blind love for her husband seemed to be a form of enslavement. She did his bidding even though in her heart of hearts she must have known it was wrong. She shared him with another woman. They took it in turns to sleep with him in the family caravan. And that’s not the worst of it. But by all accounts the kids were well cared for, well turned out and never missed a day’s school. Social Services had little reason to place them on a ‘watch’ list. But is the wretched woman to be blamed more than her husband?
Mick Philpott is in some ways a product, not of the Welfare State, but of today’s ‘want it all’ society. He craved his 15 minutes of fame by going on the Jeremy Kyle Show and by appearing on TV spending a week with Ann Widdecombe. He wanted more. He had a dozen children. He wanted more. He ended up with 17, then 11. He wanted to control the women in his life. It was only when he knew he had lost control of his mistress that things went wrong. They went wrong because of his desire to control everything. He wanted full custody of his mistress’s children and came up with the fire plan as a ruse to show himself as a hero, which would enable him to gain custody and then get a bigger house. In the end mick Philpott is an egocentric narcissist who would do anything to get his own way.
When the sentences are handed down later, there will be howls of anger from people who think they should get the death penalty. Clearly that won’t happen but in Mick Philpott’s case I hope he gets Life and that it actually means Life – no parole, no early release, no hope of ever being free. There is no hope that he can ever be rehabilitated. This sentence must all be about punishment and nothing else. In his wife’s case she already has a life sentence. She is sentenced to a life of thinking about how different her life would have been had she stood up to Philpott. By all accounts she is still besotted with him. One day she will wake up and realise what he did, not just to her 6 children, but to her as well.
So yes, the Welfare State allowed Philpott to claim £60k a year in benefits. It allowed him to live a feckless life. But did it kill his children? No.He did that himself, and the only person who helped him was his wife. William Beveridge played no part in it.