The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just made a statement about Mick Philpott; the man convicted of the manslaughter of 6 of his children; the man who also lived off enormous benefit hand outs, banking the equivalent of £100,000 salary in benefits from various sources if reports are to be believed. George Osborne said:
‘There’s a question about the welfare state, and taxpayers who pay, subsidising lifestyles like that’
This is a careful statement. Osborne avoids the mistake of saying that the system created Philpott’s evil. In fact, he says nothing. He merely raises the question about a system that allowed Philpott to live as he did for so long at your expense.
Asking the question, of course, invites his opponents to answer. A key part of Osborne’s strategy is to goad his opponents into defending the status quo; this plan is predicated on the assumption that the status quo is indefensible. It’ll be interesting to see if they take the bait on this occasion. The obvious retort, that it is despicable to use the children’s tragedy for political gain, is unlikely to wash because Osborne is asking a question about Philpott’s lifestyle, not his crime. Any political gain will be generated by his opponents providing the wrong political answers, because Osborne’s reforms have public support. And there is plainly little sympathy for Philpott.
Hat-tip: James Chapman.
UPDATE: Joey Jones reports that Osborne was asked, ‘Are the philpotts vile products of UK welfare?’ This refers to the Daily Mail’s controversial headline. Osborne was careful to say that the Philpotts were responsible for their crimes; but he was equally careful to raise the question about taxpayers subsidising Mick Philpott’s lifestyle.