So it’s another day filled with opinionated tweets, controversial articles and big questions like ‘what are we going to do about the welfare state?’ The Daily Mail’s article on Mick Philpott’s conviction for murdering his six children seems to have divided the nation, or at least those of us on twitter, into two camps – those side-lined by a poorly worded title, and those of us who see beyond this.
In case you haven’t seen the article in question, you can view it here. ‘Vile product of Welfare’,harsh words indeed from the Daily Mail. The main source of concern comes from those who are dependent on the welfare state and many of them have taken to twitter to voice their hurt over what seems to be an attack on their social class. This has led to many people accusing the Daily Mail of creating a ‘class calculator’, an actual feature now available on the BBC website here. Some would think that although it is understandable, this is a gross overstatement. Of course, the Daily Mail is provocative; it has been for over a hundred years. Back at the turn of the last century, the Daily Mail warned that our nation’s defeat in the Second Boer War would lead to an invasion of our own shores and a crumbling military. Evidently, some things don’t change.
What is clear is that the Daily Mail lacks tact. I personally believe that welfare state is in dire need of reform. We need to save what we have, before it is gone completely. However, what is unfortunate is that articles from the right wing press attacking welfare ‘scroungers’ are not helping. Of course there is confusion in this article between correlation and cause. As Alan White from the New Statesmen puts it, the issue is an ‘easy conflation of one man’s despicable behaviour with thousands of genuine benefit claimants’. Mick Philpott was an evil man. What possesses a man to murder six of his own children? Certainly not the welfare state. I think it is necessary to look beyond the right wing, opinionated and often misinterpreted headlines that apparently, according to the most sensitive, accuse all welfare recipients of being murderers- which of course they do not. Beyond this poorly worded headline lies another example of broken Britain.
Again, like White, I believe that people have ‘completely missed the point’. The perfect example of this is White’s comparison to the recent murder by Stephen Seddon of his parents. He argues that the murder of these children is no more a story of benefits than Seddon’s was ‘a damning indictment of Britain’s inheritance system’. If you want to read the whole of White’s article you can access it here. This story was a tragic case of murder and female manipulation but it does shed light on what is often regarded as a taboo- welfare reform. If one mentions the need to reform the welfare state, they are often seen as extremely right-wing, lacking compassion and unaware of the necessity of a welfare state. Three things I assure you I am not.
Cases like Philpott’s – or other ‘benefit scroungers’ such as those in the following links here and here – often overshadow the real cases of need. If we continue to be persuaded by a right wing press that often generalises all benefit recipients, we might lose what took two world wars and half a century to achieve- a safety net, for all of us. We need to reintroduce a working mentality. We need to remind the generations, which have lost links with those who remember a Britain without welfare, of a Britain with true starvation, poverty and inequality. Reintroducing a mentality to work is not an easy thing. The government is trying to introduce what they call ‘work that pays’, ensuring that those who work earn more than those who do not. Although this is a positive step towards improving the state of our welfare state, with more than six million claiming- according to the Independent- it is going to take a lot more to change the social attitude of Britain.
What to learn from this reaction to the Daily Mail is not to take anything it publishes too seriously. No, if you are claiming benefits the Daily Mail is not calling you a murderer. However, most importantly what to take from this is that if this carries on we are going to lose our welfare state. Britain is running out of money and I would hate to see it be unable to provide for the most vulnerable members of society, but there has to be a line. Some of us have to work to provide for those who can’t. That’s how it works. We need to reform and look beneath the surface of the right wing press which is crying out for reform. It’s an argument that goes back hundreds of years to the Speenhamland System that aimed to give relief to the poor in the 18th Century. We have been trying to distinguish between our deserving and undeserving poor for centuries, and frankly we need to get better at it.
Lisa Rumbold, A2 Politics Student