George Osborne has said some crass things in his time, but his comments today that there should be a debate on whether "the state should subsidise lifestyles like that" were awful, giving a whiff of credibility to the demonising headlines in the Daily Mail.
My Liberal Democrat Voice co-editor Stephen Tall sensibly said earlier:
"The welfare state was no more to blame for their deaths than capitalism would be to blame if they’d done it to claim on insurance. The motive was greed; the result a tragedy."
I think, though, that there was more than greed to it. The Judge's sentencing report is disturbing to read and makes clear that Philpott's desire to exact revenge on his former girlfriend Lisa Willis was a factor. He had a lifelong history of controlling and abusive behaviour towards women. This was about power and control as well.
You wonder, though, what Osborne wants to happen. Does he want benefit claimants to go through some sort of character/lifestyle test before they get any money? And what does that mean for their children if they are found wanting? Are they supposed to suffer for their parents' actions, or for the prejudices of a DWP employee?
I was very keen that a Liberal Democrat should take Osborne to task for his comments. Our silence would imply that we agreed with this nonsense. Sarah Teather has not disappointed. She said:
"I am shocked and appalled that George Osborne has stooped so low as to make a crude political point out of the tragic deaths of six young children. It's one thing for a tabloid newspaper to make unsophisticated, clumsy political arguments, quite another for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to join in.
"It is deeply irresponsible for such a senior politician to seek to capitalise on public anger about this case, and in doing so demonise anybody who receives any kind of welfare support. Mr Philpott should be held fully accountable for his awful actions and it is reprehensible to seek to explain it away by blaming the welfare system which Osborne has been so happy to wage war on.
"On Tuesday, when answering a question about living on £53 a week, Osborne said that it's not sensible to reduce the debate to an argument about one individual's set of circumstances. It makes you wonder what has changed in 48 hours."