Now that we’ve introduced ourselves, let’s get started. At RealFare we believe it’s important not take the news we read at face value. Most papers and online publications have an editor who answers to proprietor leading to distortion of the truth. Each week, we’ll choose a story related to welfare and look at how it’s treated by the media. Bias will be found in any newspaper. It won’t be the Daily Mail each week but they do give us lots of ammunition. First up, the tragic deaths of 6 children have been used as a vehicle to push the destruction of the welfare state. Although the crime may have been committed nearly a year ago, their jaw-dropping coverage of April’s sentencing, is more relevant than ever.
Source: Press Gazzette.
vile, evil, murderer, drug-taking, appalling, cynical, egotistical, depraved, rapist, sex-obsessed
Just some of the words the media has used to describe Mick Philpott. No one can deny he is a despicable human being. In the early hours of 11th May last year he inflicted terror most of us can only imagine after pouring petrol into the letterbox of his home in Nottingham and setting it alight in an apparent attempt to get a larger council house and become a hero after “rescuing” the occupants. After finding Philpott, his wife and his accomplice guilty of manslaughter, Judge Kathryn Thirlwall described it as an “unprecedented case,” with no similar incident to compare it to. So how has the welfare system been linked to this unique crime?
Tenuously and with super-glue, of course. Demonising benefits-claimants and victimising the unemployed in such a way is an attempt to fuel the image of them currently being purported by the government. George Osbourne’s bid to join the two is as shameless as the Channel 4 character Mick Philpott has been portrayed as. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that “there is a question for government and society about the welfare state and the tax-payers that pay for the welfare state, subsidising lifestyles like that” and was later backed by Hague and the Prime Minister; the party line on this one is clear. Is it right to exploit the nation’s outrage to promote a political party’s vested interests? The majority of the country share his views, he said on Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio Five Live. Not so, Mr Osbourne.
In a poll cast by The Times on 5th April, asking “Did Britain’s benefits system contribute to the Philpott fire killings?”, only 6,864 (32.22%) of the 20,746 votes believe there is a link between being on benefits and setting fire to your house while your 5 sons and little girl are sleeping inside. The majority at 14,062 votes (67.78%) do not.
As seen on their front page, The DM has tried to connect the crime with an attempted murder committed when Philpott was 21. After going AWOL from the Army, he stabbed his then-girlfriend 27 times before starting on her mother. This was at a time when he wasn’t receiving child benefits and wasn’t living in council housing. Clearly, he was troubled before “breeding” children as the DM touchingly chooses to put it. Why hasn’t Osbourne laid any blame on the armed forces? And should he not have publicly denounced Jeremy Kyle for inviting Philpott onto his programme, for bringing notoriety to this egotistical criminal and abusive husband in order to increase viewing figures? Should it garner as much support as making Philpott the anti-poster boy for the soft-touch welfare state, Osbourne would surely have done it.
And so it begins… Worryingly, we’re already seeing eviction notices being served to tenants of social housing in Haringey, one of the four London boroughs participating in the benefits cap trial which came into effect last month. How many of those are likely to have murdered anyone, let alone their own child? What about 6 of their own children? It’s unlikely those families even have more than 2 offspring. Only 1 in 7 British families with children have more than 3. Interestingly, 95% of families with 2 parents and 3 or more dependent children have either one or both parents in work (Source: ONS). If the DM and the government can draw a link between the welfare state and multiple-murder, it’s a shame they couldn’t do the same with harsh cuts and people becoming homeless.
“The evil born out of welfare dependency”
Philpott is the“evil born out of welfare dependency,” said the Daily Mail. Tell that to the 20.3 million families in Britain (64% of all families) who receive some kind of benefits. It’s not only the out-of-work “scroungers” like the Philpotts who will soon be finding life more difficult. Of the 14.1 million work-age households with someone in work, over half will see their entitlements reduced by an average of about £165 a year.
Harriet Harman described Mick Philpott as “just a criminal, a controlling person who was abusing everyone in their family as well as abusing the system.” We’re with her on this one.
Keep your eyes peeled for news, interviews and debates from experts, commentators and those affected by the reforms (so most of us then).