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Michael Philpott did evil things because of the benefits system, says AN Wilson. That’s surely a perfect example of the folly of moral relativism.

Without the welfare state, he says, Philpott would have been ‘decently employed’. Maybe it’s more likely he would still have been a criminal?

By on Thursday, 4 April 2013

Mick and Mairead Philpott (Photo: PA)

Mick and Mairead Philpott (Photo: PA)

“Michael Philpott is a perfect parable for our age: His story shows the pervasiveness of evil born out of welfare dependency”. Thus, one of the headlines (of which more in due course) spawned by the Philpott affair, the narrative of which is all too simple. Philpott’s crime was committed on May 11, 2012, at 18 Victory Road, a residential street in Allenton, Derby.

Five children died in the fire he set; another later died in hospital. The children were asleep upstairs in the house when the fire began, with their parents downstairs.

Mick Philpott, their father, was reported to have made “valiant” attempts to save them. Post-mortem tests revealed the children died of smoke inhalation. The parents of the children, Mick and Mairead Philpott, were later arrested and charged with murder, along with their friend Paul Mosley.

Their charges were later downgraded to manslaughter. On Tuesday, all the defendants were found guilty. Such are the bare facts. The motive for the fire was one of sheer malice: Philpott wanted revenge on his mistress, who had been living with him and his wife, and who had moved out with her children by him, depriving Philpott of £1,000 a week in benefit money for their (ie his) upkeep: the fire was to be blamed on her, so presumably Philpott wanted her to go to prison for setting it.

What conclusions can we come to as to the moral causes of this horrible tragedy? Are they not simple enough? Philpott is an evil man, who has done many evil things in his life, the most horrific of which has been the latest. He chose to do them. He was not in any way forced by circumstances into them. If he had not perpetrated his latest vindictively motivated crime, six children who died horrific deaths would now be alive.

Nothing else but his own malignancy can be blamed for what he has done. So what on earth was the headline from the Daily Mail, with which I began, all about? “Michael Philpott is a perfect parable for our age: His story shows the pervasiveness of evil born out of welfare dependency”? Born out of? Is this not this headline one of the grossest examples imaginable of the utter folly of moral relativism? Evil, born out of born out of welfare dependency? Surely the article beneath it is not as crude as that (most newspapers don’t allow writers to compose their own headlines)?

Actually, the piece itself – by a certain AN Wilson – is every bit as crude as that. He begins with an attempt to cover himself on the moral front, before the inevitable appearance of the relativist’s watchword or mantra, “but”: “Of course,” he says, “this is a story of tragedy — six children have been killed in horrible circumstances. It is also a story of great human wickedness for, even if the plot had gone according to plan and the children had been rescued, Philpott and his wife were conspiring to make it look as if another person had attempted to murder them.”

“But”, he continues (here we go), “where did all this evil come from? Evil no doubt (my italics)” – “no doubt” is an expression which actually implies that there is considerable doubt about what follows – “Evil… comes from the heart of human beings and we are all capable, in one way or another, of wrongdoing.” Yeah, yeah. “And yet, and yet”, he continues, “… throughout this painful trial, as the evidence was so slowly and painstakingly heard, it was impossible not to think of it as a hateful parable of our times.

“Those six children, burnt to a cinder for nothing, were, in a way, the children of those benevolent human beings who, all those years ago, created our state benefits system.” They were also, we are to understand, their victims.

“What the Philpott trial showed”, he goes on to say, “was the pervasiveness of evil caused by benefit dependency” (my italics).

So, the deaths of these children weren’t really the fault of Philpott at all. He was a bad man, all right. But whywas he a bad man? He was made bad by the benefits system: that’s what Wilson seems to say, in effect: “Philpott did not suddenly decide, after a blameless life, to set fire to his house, with six children inside it, and blame it on his ex-mistress. He did so after years of cynically exploiting the system; years of having children so as to claim yet more benefit; years of rampant dishonesty; years of treating the women in his life as objects of pleasure and the resulting children as a means to an end of more money for beer and cannabis.”

And he treated the women in his life as objects of pleasure, and he cynically exploited the system, because it was there to exploit: it virtually made him exploit it. And without it, he would have been a perfectly decent human being.

“If Beveridge and Attlee’s wishes had been fulfilled”, says Wilson, “there would never have been a family like that of Michael Philpott. Philpott himself would have been decently employed and his children would all have received an excellent education from the state in selective, well-disciplined, well-funded local schools.”

“Do you think”, he concludes, “that Philpott would have done this crime if he had worked regularly for the past 20 years and provided for those six children out of his own pocket?

“It is a difficult matter to prove, but I know what I think.”

I know what I think, too: and not just about the wretched Philpott.

  • AlanP

    A.N.Wilson should stick to his excellent biographies, and not blunder into political issues. Even if Philpott only did this because of the benefits system, that is no reason whatsoever for depriving countless more deserving people of that system. It’s like saying that because a small amount of foreign aid might go to waste, or even be used for some wrong purpose, the whole lot should be scrapped.

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Well said.

    I don’t understand how the Daily Mail could print this. Their readers care above all about individual responsibility for actions. Guardian readers like me generally want to partially blame the system when people go wrong like this, but the Mail generally argues, no, evildoers must take responsibility for their actions- and they have a point.

    I would say that Philpott must be seriously mentally ill to do what he did. Most Mail readers would say no, he must have had a choice. But in neither case does it make any sense to blame the benefits systems that was designed to prevent his children starving to death for his wickedness.

  • Beko fridge-freezer

    I’ve grown up in the benefits system. My family are all ‘dirty, scum bag-chavs’, as one of my university flat mates calls them. I go to a Russell Group University and I feel dreadfully isolated, and gradually more and more resentful of my middle-class peers. I would love people like AN Wilson to have grown up like me, only then can you understand. These people live on a different planet, my flat mate for example has this naive idea that you can achieve anything you want if you work hard enough (therefore, people in Britain are poor and on benefits, because they haven’t worked hard enough).

    That’s nonsense, there are so many inequalities working-class kids have to face, inequality of access to education for example. Kids like me don’t achieve because they do not have access to the same resources, and do not develop the same confidence. For example, at primary school I was impeccably well behaved, but my teacher treated me like hoodlum (I was six) because I came from the local council estate, wore trainers to school instead of black shoes, and I was put in the special remedial class (now I study modern languages and literature). Now I’m at a top university and I am around all these folk saying that people like my family are good for nothing chavs and frivolous benefit scroungers. I don’t feel confident at all in comparison to my peers, I sometimes feel like an imposter when I go in to lectures/ classes.

    Are these people really concerned for the children who died, or are they just using it as an opportunity to vent their hatred towards the working classes? After all, wouldn’t the children have grown up into social-security dependent detritus like their parents (surly on to the same thing when they turn 16, getting pregnant so as to get a free house etc.? I know people who would casual say this, and even more who think it.

    One of the reasons why I go to the SSPX is because my local Novus Ordo church is dominated by busy-body middle class types. No one from my estate goes there, they would get looked down upon. Even though it’s a Cheshire over-spill estate full of Mancunian Catholic families. Maybe the priest should come and offer Mass and here Confession in our locality. The Methodists are already based here, and they do a bloody good job.

    I hate people who make a show of their charity, giving money to overseas and all that, and they say the most vile things about the rough looking sports-brand wearing lads who go to the jobcentre once a fortnight (if I’d not have been born as clever, I would be one of those). It’s oppression of the poor in my opinion, a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance There is a massive culture of resentment in this country. Any wonder? A journalist from the Catholic Herald spoke to me on the phone once, he wanted to interview me for an article he was writing (he was impressed by a comment I wrote elsewhere and wanted my opinion for his column). He was a pleasant chap, but when he heard me speak, my accent, he made the remark “I am not sure what kind of background you are from.”, what a strange comment to make. I don’t think I would get into journalism some how. Actually I want to be a priest. I would catechise in the council estates of my diocese, I would offer to go in to the job centre with people if they were having hassle with the DWP (in my cassock).

    One of the first things that happened when I went to uni was being criticised for getting EMA. That £30 really helped me. I mean, really helped me. Thank you Labour Goverment. It meant I could buy some decent clothes to wear to sixth form, so I wouldn’t stick out too much. People just don’t understand the little things like this that make it hard for the poor to succeed in education. By the way, not just Chavs abuse benefits, well spoken people in nice houses in nice suburbs are at it too, I know at least a couple.

  • $27740841

    I’m so glad you posted this. I entirely agree with you about the venom that is directed against working class people in this country. ‘Dirty, scum-bag chavs’ – how dare they? But they do dare. In fact, it is entirely acceptable to sneer like this at the poor of this country, while all the time professing concern for poverty overseas. Time and time again I hear Catholics and secular liberals alike displaying their bleeding hearts and wringing their hands over the ‘poor’. And yet most of them wouldn’t be seen dead in some of the truly deprived parts of their own country.

    New Labour have utterly abandoned the traditional working class. And the impression I get is that the Novus Ordo Church has done the same. They seem to have no concern for the spiritual and material poverty that is rampant in many once proud working class areas of Britain. And yet they never stop fawning over immigrants.
    As for the problems you face at university, I sympathise with you, I truly do. I, too, went to university from a poor background and know something of what you must be going through. But hang on in there. If you do become a priest and go on to catechise the council estates of your diocese, you will be performing a truly, grace filled mission. And if you take the traditional Mass and the beautiful traditional Catholic liturgy and teachings to these areas you will be doing more good than all those hand-wringing, middle-class Catholics in their ‘Make Poverty History’ tee shirts will ever do.
    Your post has struck a chord with me. It’s so true what you say. Suffering in the way you undoubtedly are can be very painful. But it’s redemptive, they say. In the meantime, have you read ‘Chavs’ by Owen Jones, or ‘The Likes of Us’ by Michael Collins. Both are well worth having a look at. I saw a programme about a year ago in which a young girl from a council estate in south London who had made it to Cambridge university was describing experiences almost identical to yours – the constant sneering at chavs and their ways coupled with a real and vicious contempt for everyone who shared her background. Sad, really sad.

  • $27740841

    Michael Philpott didn’t intend that his children should die in that fire. What possible justification can there be for describing him as evil.
    Oh, I know. He’s a chav. That explains it. After all, chavs are the scum of the earth, eh!

  • Pope Zicola

    ‘I would say that Philpott must be seriously mentally ill to do what he did.’

    I’m inclined to agree with you on that score, Sara_TMS_again.
    However, I will add one vital fact to you – the kind of mental illness he has is – unfortunately for society at large – not deemed certifiable enough to effectively section the individual.

    This category of ‘mental illness’ is rare – I repeat RARE!!! – in benefits claimants.
    It’s true!
    Don’t believe the crud from certain UK Government department press offices which makes paper and ink for the rag you buy regularly in your paper shop, with regards those too sick to work.
    They see a tiddler and accidentally on purpose mistake it for a Killer Whale to convince the ”British people” that we have an epidemic of ‘demics and scroungers!
    The UK Government is unfortunately succeeding in selling to you, the public, that those who claim benefits – and especially disability benefits – can actually do a can-can worthy of the Follies Bergieres after all!
    What a load of horseburgers!
    And we swallow them in a sesame seeded bun every day, folks! It’s truly amazing!
    It’s anything to pick on the vulnerable and sick. Why? ‘coz the genuinely vulnerable and sick simply haven’t the energy – both mental and physical – to fight these critics. They are fighting tougher battles of their own 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… and then have to endure the needless repetitive tedium of taking those brickbats day after day, night after night from expensively coiffeur’ed, bored-for-the-want-of-someone-to-pick-on, nothing-else-better-to-do who are not exactly forcibly dragged into the studio booths of the BBC, Channel 4 etc.
    And the sorest kick of all … such stuff coming from accidentally overheard conversations in the open from ordinary folk whose pot kettles they call black!
    And the likes of The Daily Mail and A N O’There (whatever his name is) think that those on benefits can cook up an insane wheeze like Philpott’s on a regular basis?
    Well slap my thigh and call me the Principal Boy!

    Getting back to the ‘mental illness’ angle, you will find Philpott’s brand of mental illness/syndrome/whatever pretty well common in the following types:
    City types – well-heeled, suited and booted, ears superglue’d to iPhones, Blackberrys etc. etc. busy using two fingers to type on their laptop keyboards. They who wear expensive fly-killer variety perfume/aftershave which diffuses through the corridors of every floor like an invisible genie doing a runner out of the lamp. If their herald isn’t there to call ‘The King!’, the fly-killer fragrance does it for them.
    Yes. Them.
    The ones like Madoff who stole other people’s money and livelihoods down the Swanee, leading to a worse recession than what happened in the Great Depression causing a chain reaction of hardship, misery, frustration and anger… and rising unemployment!
    He got away with it for so long because he wore neither an eye mask, striped jersey, black pants or carried a sack over his shoulder with the legend ‘SWAG’ – or, in 21st Century terms, he didn’t wear a designer hoodie or sports pants, wedge chunky ‘bling’ about his tarsals with the market value of a small country nor do nor talk business in ‘street’ slang, yo!
    Is Madoff sorry? No. Does he take responsibility? No. He’s sitting in prison and cares not a jot about the damage he’s done to people beyond those razor-wire gates.
    He and his likes, who think the London Stock Exchange and Wall Street are twinned with Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, are still out there going about their business but you would not find their profiles on ‘Police Five’ or ‘Crimewatch’!
    At least with street gangs, what you see is what you get.
    With the likes of Madoff… he’s ‘respectable-looking’, isn’t he? He wouldn’t do a thing such as rob people and ruin people’s lives…
    Next un-institutionalised mental case types:
    Tinpot dictators – you name ‘em, they’re knitting with one needle … and it ain’t a crochet hook! Chances are, if you cross them, they’ll shove that singular metaphoric needle into somewhere unpleasant… and that’s them being lenient! They could pose as fine, upstanding members of the community, parish and other establishments… regardless of cause, faith, sport or what.
    Ever heard of mental illnesses with the words Narcissistic, Sociopathic, Histrionic, Psychopathic with the suffixes of ‘Syndrome’ or ‘Personality Disorder’?
    I’ve briefly written about these examples.
    And, as I’ve said, unfortunately they can’t be sectioned.
    PS: I do blame successive governments for promoting the Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas’ character in the film Wall Street) mantra of ‘Greed is Good, lunch is for wimps’.
    It was supposed to be a mickey-take of such people, like Alf Garnett was a mickey-take of the Enoch Powell Fan Club.
    Unfortunately, idiots thought they were actual role models.
    Talking about the lunatics taking over …
    Jesus, Mercy! Mary, Help!

  • scary goat

    I agree with both comments above. I am reasonably well educated but was left alone with 4 children after divorce and also care for my aged mother. It is very hurtful to hear comments about “benefit scroungers” and how their children will grow up just the same. My older son has a degree and a good job and a massive student loan hanging over his head because there was no “daddy” to pay for him. My older daughter settled down with a nice young chap from a working class background but he was sensible and hard working and had saved nearly enough money to buy a house with no mortgage…..until they shut the factory where he worked to move overseas for the cheap labour and he lost his job. All the money was spent to live on while he was unemployed….all their hopes and dreams gone. My daughter’s little boy is the brightest in his class at school because his mother spends the time to teach him. My 2 younger children are doing well at school. Residential homes for the elderly cost a fortune, I look after my mother at home, we live with my mother in her house so there are no housing benefits for us, yet still there are those who look down their noses at us because I am a stay-at-home mum with no independent income. There is one of me and 4 children (2 still at home) and granny. Am I not doing a better service by having time to raise my children well for the future and caring for granny? And I didn’t ask to be in that situation. It wasn’t a choice. And when I see those people with such nice affluent lifestyles quibbling over child benefit….it really makes me wonder….we actually have to live on ours. Of course there are those who abuse the system….there will always be those who will abuse any system….but in the last few years the attitude towards people who need benefits has become horrendous. No problem spending billions on war though.

  • Tim

    Philpott was first convicted of attempted murder aged 21 after a history of years of violence. The criminality came first, welfare after so that wasn’t the cause. The fact they only locked him up for 3 years was maybe a mistake.

  • AlanP

    What’s this about “fawning over immigrants”? Here in South London 50% of our mass attenders are immigrants. Should the “Novus Ordo Church” (as you call the Catholic Church) cease administering to them? If there had been no immigrants over the past 200 years there would be no Catholic Church of any kind in Britain.

  • $20596475

    That Philpott is an evil man is beyond question. That though does NOT mean that his environment does not impact upon his, or anyone else’s, actions. For sure he needs to take responsibility for his actions, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also have a responsibility to try to see them in context. Why is this important? Because, in my view, we need to ensure we need to learn and adjust in the light of experience. If that falls under a “relativism” banner so be it. I think it is just common sense.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    I thought Osborne’s remarks about this were strange. Is he suggesting that all large families on benefits are breeding grounds for criminality? I suspect his real problem is with large families and this is just another example of his ultra liberal dislike of the family as manifested by his support for Gay Marriage.
    I am sure the benefit system needs reforming but to suggest that this totally exceptional crime should have any relevance to that reform is absurd.

  • Beko fridge-freezer

    I am quite moved by the responses to this. Of course, I wouldn’t want to come across as middle-class bashing, because there is nothing wrong whatsoever with being middle-class, upper class, or just simply wadded. I mentioned Labour not because I intended to make a manifesto of my post, rather because I thought the EMA scheme was a good idea (I would have said the same about another political party in regards to that single issue).

  • Bonaventure

    I too have a similar story to yours as I suspect many who read these pages do. Have you found that people who were poor knew God and understand his will better than the theologians? I found more sharing, loving and christian living and wisdom on the council estate I grew up on ( and the ones I now work on) than among the priests and religious community I was called to. I am conscious that the real saints and real holiness is found in the pews. But we all know this, I hope. The middle classes are just as much if not more tempted by greed and pride and these sins are very pervasive and destructive. Blessed are the poor. I am currently working in the poorest of places in UK and because it is white working class no one not even the Jesuits or SPPX are there except of course the brilliant work of the secular clergy and two religious orders of nuns, the Police and the schools. I say this because like you I have found that the working class is to be despised (I hate the word) as chavs. Socialists of the middle classes left them behind. (our area has a poverty indicator where 94% of children are on free school meals- the area that government and the “russel group religious orders” work in has 42% and is multicutural and it makes then cognitively congruent to work with this group. They demonise and dehumanise the real poor. One way they do this is this by thinking that it is alright to live on benefits all their lives and feel good about defending the rights of people to benefit for ever without working (if they can). Actually if you believe in the humanity and dignity of these people you know what they can achieve. That it is not alright for three generations not to work. That in the place of work comes drugs and alcohol and disordered lives. It is not alright for these people to be at the mercy of heroin, and at the mercy of aggressive individuals. That their current plight deserves action and help. I just speak for my life as you do for yours and I also was put in remedial class also for being the poorest in the school but was found to have an exceedingly high IQ at university.

    So I see two things at work here

    1, lack of charity to the poor despite Our Lord’s specific teachings and in fact a deep seated hatred,

    2 people who dont matter have been left on benefits – especially since the destruction of industry it was thought of as legitimate social policy.

    The two are inter-linked. We can leave them on benefits, give them a sub-standard schooling, and laugh at them if they attempt to achieve on middle class terms such as in academia or the professions because they are not us, the out group.

    I am not surprised you have found theological right wingers have more to offer you at present as they are less indoctrinated by a middle class socialist ideology that despises the working class so and looks to the poor over seas to bestow social justice rather than close to home. But the church cuts accross all boundaries and I find it doesnt matter which group you are in as God’s love is just too big for all this nonsense.

    Just to affirm I remain socialist and theologically liberal (despite the despotism and to be frank arrogance and rudeness of some middle class socialist priests .. oh the embarrassment as I recall saying I was a proponent of Liberation Theology) but have recieved so much fellowship and genuine humanity from the theological right that I can see the Church is God’s love in action. As Men and Women we speak heart to heart.I have come that they have life, the paradox I find more life here than at Oxford but then I have seen more violence.

  • $27740841

    Of course I’m not suggesting that. But where is the outreach to the discarded poor who have been here for generations? Have they been written off as lost while the Church looks to new arrivals to fill the pews? And when the new arrivals settle and their children drift away, will the Church look to even newer arrivals to swell the laity’s ranks?

  • Sara_TMS_again

    I teach at a Russell Group University- and am one of many members of staff who does everything she can to support and encourage working class students.

    One thing, though- don’t necessarily be put off by the accents and assumptions of the middle class students- they may not understand your world when they start, but Uni will change them for the better as they begin to think more deeply and get to know a bit more. Almost all arts subjects engage with questions of class and education in some way or another- most good students will learn from their subject that the world is more complex than they realised. That’s part of growing up, too. Only the hot-housed thickos remain impervious and leave University with the same assumptions they had as they went in- and no-one likes teaching them, because they take no delight in learning, do the minimum they can get away with and just waste everyone’s time.

  • Pope Zicola


    Does Osborne include old age pensioners in his firebrand-for-feather-dusters diatribe of people on benefits? That ‘necessary evil’ for those who fall on hard times, through no fault of their own … especially those who become chronically sick?

    Here is a clue to Mr Osborne’s attitude to the unfairly named ‘great unwashed’ who live on benefits.

    George Osborne’s heart lives in cloud cuckoo-land but – due to the fact that this is a Roman Catholic publication and there is the urgent need for me to exercise continence in the ‘rude’ department, I daren’t tell you where his brain is…

    … and, in his parallel reality, he is MP for Tatton Cheshire!

    He’s the man who should go to that famous High Street Opticians for parking his car in a disabled spot!

    How’s THAT for spitting on the vulnerable?!!

    I’m classed as disabled, though my chronic illness does not entitle me to a Blue Badge! Therefore, when I have a turn, it’s tough noddies that I find myself in distress, that my fiancé has to look for money for the parking meters at my local hospital when I have to honour an appointment – or two or three! – from my regular medical professionals!

    I don’t get hung up about that … until, every so often, I read screaming headlines in my local paper about ‘cruds’ – yes, CRUDS! – who like to use their dead nearest-and-dearest’s Blue Badge so that they can park outside the listed buildings in City Centre Manchester which house top fashion labels so that they and their wives/husbands/significant others shop around for overpriced clobber … and, the sickest twist of all when you read the other reasons why they use the Blue Badge: to prevent them from paying for their undesignated parking spaces at their place … of work!

    I ain’t talking about cleaners, janitors, carers or any other person who earn in a year what George Osborne spends on his socks in half of that.


    I’m talking about those overpriced-cardboard-coffee-cup-carrying professionals who can afford the parking rate!

    I couldn’t give a fudge-drizzled fairy cake about any forced, insincere apology from Osborne!

    Now, about Tatton, Cheshire.

    How. Utterly. Depressing! They put up with the Hamiltons, had the white-suited Martin Bell for a brief go… now the guy who is ”in charge” of the money gathered in from the sweat of the brow of hard-working taxpayers and the 20% VAT off the stuff we buy – (Newsflash! Even benefit claimants are taxpayers – through the stuff we buy!)


    Tatton is the kind of place where, for a kick-off (geddit? kick-off? Please yourselves!), Premiership Soccer players and their WAGs et al live, soap opera stars, high-powered professionals live when they are not working.

    In other words, it’s the kind of place where NIMBYs live.

    The people who make the crime series Midsomer Murders must pay a visit there, incognito, to take these stock cubes of inspiration to make some tasty gravy to pour on the meat of schadenfreude …

    As in…

    They do not want their quaint, leather-on-willow homesteads and acres of land to be bulldozed to kingdom-come to make way for an extra terminal at Manchester International Airport… ironic, really, considering the fact that most of those who live there frequent the doggone place every summer to escape to their second homes in Marbella or the Maldives or wherever else there is sunshine for a genuine chance of a tan that does not come from a spray gun.

    You think I’m talking out of my hat?? I live a couple of miles away from there! I have the misfortune of driving past there (‘past’ being the operative word) from time to time.

    My attitude to the Cheshire Set is the same as Spike Milligan (the Lord have mercy on him…) to a certain town/city which he wanted to go into Room 101, the BBC One series.

    Even though it would appear from my post that I’m some kind of working-class malcontent, I’m not.

    Really, I’m not!

    I actually don’t begrudge any person or family who have earned their money for hard-earned achievement in life. Having met the majority of these people, they are the most pleasant, generous and pro-active human beings who do not court publicity.

    I don’t even begrudge or envy those who live in these places, as these places are my idea of hell!

    It’s just that I can’t stomach those who flick their disdain like ash off the end of a Cuban cigar on people who genuinely do not deserve it.
    Pope Francis talks about complaining. He’s right.
    How about those genuinely complain about the issues that affect their lives and the lives of others?
    Never mind the things we can’t help like the weather…

  • Pope Zicola

    ‘I thought Osborne’s remarks about this were strange.’
    Strange? That’s being kind…

  • Stuart Gardner

    i grew up poor and I am still poor but I do not mind this one bit. I have been to university twice. It is shameful that people on welfare benefits are being targeted for political and ideological reasons for politcal purposes. It is what theologians call ‘Structural sin’….or it used to be when I was at seminary. It is left to us to defend the poor…..

    Fr Stuart

  • Pope Zicola

    Well done for a fantastic post, Bekofridge-freezer!

    If the EMA was around when I and many others were at school, then it would have been put to the purpose it was earmarked for, i.e. keeping me at school, and not on pleasing the shareholders of either tobacco, gambling or alcoholic beverage companies.

    I remember a time when my postcode alone, during the Thatcher era of unemployment, would not have even granted me an interview to work for a cat stew manufacturing firm, never mind a job that suited my qualifications.
    At one JobClub, when the civil servants went off to do something better than sit around and patronise us to within a centimetre of our lives, one of the guys related to the rest of the group that he has started getting job interviews after months of sending off rulers as boomerangs i.e. no reply ever came back.

    What was his secret?
    He had a relation who lived in another part of Manchester who offered him the use of his address and postcode in order to use and collect replies from.
    How dishonest! We are supposed to be honest when we fill in our forms, aren’t we?
    Well, yes!
    So, mate, if you get the offer of a job, what are you going to do? When will you tell them the truth about where you actually live?
    Simple. I work with them for a few months to prove I can do the job… then drop the bombshell!
    Good grief, BekoF-f! Is history repeating itself now, in the early 21st Century, that poor people are so desperate for work now that they would resort to doing this for example?
    (The Irish tycoon, Bill Cullen, went through exactly the same postcode snobbery back in Dublin! He proved to be so pigging good at his job … well, the rest is history!)

    I, too, hate it when people show off their ‘charidee’, especially on the telly with Comic Relief and all that stuff. The presenters can go home to their suburban comfort and well manicured budgies, knowing that the ones who rang in and pledged what little they have to see them through the week are actually pretty strapped for cash and food themselves. We are always told to think of people worse off than ourselves, even if what we have to live on is meagre enough.

    I fervently pray for more vocations to the priesthood regularly… and heck!

    Do we need guys like you!

  • Julian Lord

    What a sublime rant !!! Delightfully baroque, sharp and to the point, technically superb.


    EDIT — hmmm maybe I temporarily forgot I had an audience of Englishmen : the above is provided with ZERO sarcasm content ; I am HONESTLY pleased with the contents of the post.

    I repeat : delightfully baroque, sharp and to the point, technically superb

    It’s a great post.

  • JM

    Philpott and the benefits system: abusus non tollit usus

  • JM

    He did, spitefully and maliciously, intend to frame someone else for the fire, and he opted to risk the lives of his children to do so. Maybe he was not intelligent enough to gauge the risk? Maybe he did not care enough to try to gauge it, and was more concerned with satisfying his own spite (and with aggrandizing himself, imagining himself in the role of publicly celebrated ‘hero’, saving his children from the fire)? Whatever love he had for his children was not enough to stop him from risking their lives in that way. That kind of stunted awareness is surely not altogether remote from ‘evil’? None of these failures or blindnesses are anything to do with being a ‘chav’.

  • Rosemary

    I agree that the benefit system is not in itself the cause, per se, of Philpott’s crime; however, the charges, to be aggravated, also depend on motive. Perhaps Wilson is saying that the system’s largesse provided an impetus to Philpott and his wife that would not have been there otherwise.
    Without the public payouts, Philpott’s motive would have lain elsewhere in a more devious vein, carrying more serious charges. The charges would not have been for only manslaughter, serious as that is. With the payouts, the Philpotts act seems “reasonable”. Doing a crime for financial gain is more bearable than one done out of pure malice.
    That’s the way I see Wilson’s argument.

  • David Lindsay

    It is telling that the main voice insisting that the wrong was simply that of the perpetrators has been that of Ann Widdecombe. Her improbable foray into light entertainment seems to be coming to an end, and not before time.

    We must uphold the full compatibility between, on the one hand, the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and, on the other hand, the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past. Such an approach
    might be termed “catholicity”.

    It is positively hilarious, though also rather sad, to hear people complain in a single breath, both about immigration, and that the lower orders are having too many children. If our society at large, so to speak, had carried on having such sizes of family with the full and proper assistance of the State, then how much immigration do you really think that there would have needed to have been? And do you imagine that there would now have been a demographic imbalance within the traditional population against the middle and the skilled working classes and in favour of something else entirely? A population group which is determined not to reproduce is doomed to be replaced.

    As for Shameless George, who was this week caught using a disabled parking bay and who recently travelled first class on a second class rail ticket, does he imagine that people like him just exist naturally? Or has he considered that it is their many and various exemptions from the fiscal burdens borne by everyone else that make it possible for them to create the demand for, say, cocaine, or sadomasochistic prostitutes?

    Shameless is now well into its final series. Something similar on the overclass, completely cut off from normal society both economically and morally, is long overdue. George Osborne embodies it perfectly.

  • Dr Falk

    Dear Bonaventure,
    Great message. All the best.

  • Pope Zicola

    Wow! Thank you very much, JabbaPapa!

    It was not my intention for the post to be a rant but my spleen was full to bursting … and burst it did!
    You could have set it to music.

  • Scyptical Chymist

    “If Beveridge and Attlee’s wishes had been fulfilled”, says Wilson,
    “there would never have been a family like that of Michael Philpott.
    Philpott himself would have been decently employed and his children
    would all have received an excellent education from the state in
    selective, well-disciplined, well-funded local schools.”

    Strange that none of the contributors so far have commented on this piece of socialist “if only” dreaming. I find it incredible that anyone could believe this utopian view that everything in the garden would be lovely if only Attlee and Beveridge had their way. But – they did have their way and look what it has led to. Besides no amount of “excellent”? state education could eradicate the evil in a man, just as the flawed benefits system per se could not cause that evil. As Catholics this should be obvious, as we believe that, only by God’s grace and our cooperation with it, can evil be resisted. Nevertheless I do seem to detect, in comments here, the belief or implication that the socialist/statist method is the only morally acceptable one.Quite clearly this is not so.

  • James M

    “His story shows the pervasiveness of evil born out of welfare dependency”? Born out of? Is this not this headline one of the grossest examples imaginable of the utter folly of moral relativism?”

    ## If the headline has anything to do with moral relativism, that needs to be shown. One can disagree with the judgement about the alleged “pervasiveness of evil born out of welfare dependency”, without bringing moral relativism into the mixture. How that judgement is morally “relativist”, in any pejorative sense, is not at all clear. All moral judgements, if they based on principles at all, however inarticulate, are relative, in that they are related to some standard, of some sort – that does not make them relativist in any but a trite & uninformative sense, which is presumably not what is intended in the article.

    LTM as though the lack of moral formation is (part of) the problem. For many Catholics, perhaps including him. This seems apt:

    “Now with the Summorum Pontificum the position is even better, but 97% of Catholic school leavers are still walking away from the Church every year so there is no significant
    improvement in our overall situation.”

    STM that if she is even remotely correct, we should expect many more like Michael Philpott, and worse. A rotten Catholicism cannot produce healthy Catholics, & we have no right to expect miracles.

  • Julian Lord

    All moral judgements, if they based on principles at all, however inarticulate, are relative

    This is not true.

    The teachings of Christ are absolute, in their very nature.

    The moral fallacy that these teachings might be “negociated” with, via the prism of personal opinion or personal desire, is modernist, relativist, and Americanist. This is the fallacy that is causing people to walk away from the Church, as well as the dismally poor catechesis that all too often promotes it.

    A catechesis that is deliberately made infantile for the “instruction” of ten-year-olds is unlikely to be adhered to in adulthood.

  • Dr Falk

    Thanks for this post. Thanks also for sharing so deeply about your life. Hope things are going OK. With all good wishes to you and yours

  • scary goat

    Thanks. :-)

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    KEEP UP YOUR TOUGHNEES. God be with you.

    We cannot change others, and we need not, but we can change ourselves with our God’s help. My prayers are with you.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP, Allahabad, INDIA

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “I saw a programme about a year ago in which a young girl from a council
    estate in south London who had made it to Cambridge university was
    describing experiences almost identical to yours – the constant sneering
    at chavs and their ways coupled with a real and vicious contempt for
    everyone who shared her background. Sad, really sad.”

    In India especially in North India and in some areas of south India also, we have Cast system; some of our Christians also have part of this baggage. It is religion based and scripture based. Among Christians it looks the division is Class (Rich-Poor) based. Whatever it is and wherever it is based, none of us can wish it away.

    EVIL tendencies are everywhere. This is our human condition. It is precisely because of this, THE SAVIOR came for us, to save us from sin and sinful tendencies and its consequences. If anybody is to be held responsible for it, it is those in Authority themselves who do not give foundational importance to God’s Word in their own life.

    GOD’S WORD is the first purifying and leveling factor for us Christians. But Some Churches in practice never gave sufficient importance to this DIVINE GIFT; consequently we remain as though unsaved, and thus not enjoying the the SALVATION Jesus the Lord brought for us.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP