Surgeon banned by children’s hospital in deaths scandal was investigated eight years ago
A surgeon banned from operating at a children’s heart unit at the centre of a scandal over high death rates was previously investigated over his practice.
Sri Lankan-born Nihal Weerasena is the doctor who agreed to stop carrying out operations at Leeds General Infirmary two weeks ago while bosses investigated concerns over his abilities.
But Dr Weerasena also previously stood aside in 2005 after the hospital identified problems relating to a procedure he was carrying out to repair a congenital heart defect.
The hospital, which then had concerns over Dr Weerasena’s success rates with the procedure, asked the Royal College of Surgeons to carry out a review of his practice.
Dr Weerasena, 59, no longer carries out the specific procedure at the hospital but has been allowed to remain part of the paediatric cardiac surgery team at Leeds.
His latest suspension was revealed by The Mail on Sunday two weeks ago but the hospital has refused to confirm his identity – even though he stepped aside just before all surgery was halted at the unit over fears the death rate was twice the national average. The unit is set to reopen next week if hospital chiefs can convince NHS officials that there are no safety concerns.
One mother is demanding a fresh investigation into her seven-year-old daughter’s death after learning of the concerns raised about Dr Weerasena.
Mrs Burton, 39, a civil servant from York, lost Eve – her only child – after a third operation for a congenital heart condition in March last year which was carried out by the surgeon.
Eve had an initial operation in 2005 at just ten weeks old to insert a donor artery, and needed regular follow-ups and further surgery as she grew. A second operation in December 2009 was also a success. Neither operation involved the procedure that had been investigated by the Royal College of Surgeons and neither involved Dr Weerasena.
However, he did carry out the third operation last year when Eve died hours after a procedure to replace her artery led to the failure of a heart valve.
Mrs Burton said: ‘I knew the surgery would be risky but it certainly wasn’t spelled out that she might not make it. I did ask Dr Weerasena for the success rates of the operation and he told me he was unable to do so.
‘I kissed Eve and told her I would see her later. But after being in surgery all day, he came out and told me there had been complications and a heart valve had burst under the pressure.’
Mrs Burton held several meetings with Dr Weerasena but says she still does not understand why her daughter died.
Dr Weerasena trained at the University of Rajasthan in India and qualified in 1978. He has been working at Leeds General Infirmary for more than ten years.
Asked if he was the surgeon who had been suspended, he said: ‘You need to speak to the trust.’
A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust refused to confirm the surgeon’s identity. However, he added: ‘The reason the surgeon stopped working was nothing to do with mortality rates or children’s heart surgery.’
Commenting on the 2005 investigation, the trust said its findings were implemented in full and the surgeon voluntarily decided not to undertake the particular procedure in future.
NHS heads must be accountable for Mid Staffs scandal – expert
NHS leaders should be held accountable for the Mid Staffordshire scandal, a highly-respected expert in patient safety has said.
Professor Aidan Halligan, the former deputy chief medical officer for England, warned that the roots of the crisis at Stafford Hospital went much deeper than the staff who harmed patients in their care.
He said the deadly cultures of “target-setting and corner-cutting” were created much higher up in the health service.
While he did not single out any individual managers for criticism, his comments will add to the pressure on Sir David Nicholson, the embattled chief executive of the NHS who was at one point in charge of the regional health authority covering Mid Staffordshire.
Professor Halligan, now director of education at University College London Hospitals NHS Trust, said there had been a “deafening silence” from the medical profession since the release of the Francis Report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust that caused up to 1,200 unnecessary deaths.
He wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: “Too many people in leadership, from whom we ought to expect more, have been willing to bend the truth and re-write facts for their own convenience.
“The roots of this affair go much deeper than those who caused immediate harm to patients.
“The cultures of target setting and corner cutting that caused such anguish to patients and their families, and which have been replicated elsewhere, were set far higher up in the health service.
“But who was to blame? Apparently, no-one and everyone.”
The medical expert said that “true leadership” should have the “conviction to be accountable”.
Robert Francis QC, chair of the public inquiry into the “disaster” at Mid Staffordshire, found that hundreds of people had endured “appalling and unnecessary suffering” at the trust between 2005 and 2009.
Patients were “routinely neglected” at the hospital, with many left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.
Sir David has faced numerous calls to resign since the publication of the report in February. Last month he admitted personal failings over the scandal but insisted that he was unaware of the high death rates at Stafford Hospital.
Sir David had responsibility for the regional health authority covering the trust for a year from April 2005.
In 2006 he became chief executive of the whole NHS, which has been accused of failing to notice warning signs about the problems in Mid Staffordshire.
Last month hospital campaigners called on the head of the civil service to sack Sir David for allegedly breaking the NHS Code of Conduct over the scandal.
However, the NHS boss has received the backing of David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and many other senior health officials.
It is understood that senior Government figures are considering a plan for Sir David to “pre-announce” his retirement.
He would then step down later this year or early in 2014, having managed the NHS through the first months of the sweeping Coalition reforms that came into effect from the start of this month.
British academics ‘dropping regional accents’ to fit in at elite universities
Academics with broad regional accents suffer “tacit prejudice” at top universities and feel obliged to adopt posher accents to avoid being patronised, according to a study.
The amazing thing is that such people get employed at all — JR
They fear that unless they hide their local dialects they will be classed as “outsiders” and marginalised in the event of redundancies, researchers found.
Although discrimination on grounds of gender, race or sexuality is no longer tolerated, they said the desire by universities to be classed as “elite” meant that prejudice against regional accents continued to go unchallenged.
Michelle Addison, a PhD student at Newcastle University who conducted the study, said that “talking the talk” by using an accent that carried connotations of intelligence had become commonplace among academics anxious to “fit in”.
“It can be very painful for some people to have to talk in a different way than they are used to,” she told the Times Higher Education magazine. “People said they were very conscious of the social difference carried by their accent and how it marked them out as ‘other’ to their colleagues.
“One explained how some staff started speaking in a different voice when a senior member of staff entered the room. They were trying to sound posh by affecting a different image which they felt had more value.” Miss Addison, who interviewed more than 30 people at a leading university for the project, said academics with strong accents felt less likely to receive plaudits from students, colleagues and management.
“In the current environment, universities are in competition with each other and their unique selling point is often to be ‘elite’. In turn, academics wanted to portray an image that is also elite. In times of redundancy and cuts, it is risky to be classed as outside this ‘elite’ image. There is a tacit prejudice that seems to be activated in the workplace.”
The study, Talking the Talk and Fitting In, was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
British bird charity makes a killing… from windfarm giants behind turbines accused of destroying rare birds
The RSPB is making hundreds of thousands of pounds from the wind power industry – despite the turbines killing millions of birds every year.
Golden eagles, hen harriers, Corn Buntings and other rare and threatened species are especially at risk, conservationists say.
Yet in its latest ‘partnership deal’, the bird charity receives £60 for every member who signs up to a dual-fuel account with windfarm developer Ecotricity.
It also receives £40 each time a customer opens an account with Triodos Bank, which finances renewable industry projects including wind turbines.
In a previous partnership with Southern & Scottish Electricity (SSE), which invests in wind and other renewable energy, the RSPB admits to having made £1 million over ten years.
The charity claims that windfarms play an important role in the battle against climate change, which ‘poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife’, and that wind turbines caused only ‘significant detrimental effects’ when poorly sited.
But critics argue there is no such thing as a well-sited windfarm and that the charity has been taken over by green zealots.
Conservationist Mark Duchamp, whose international charity Save The Eagles monitors bird deaths caused by wind farms, said: ‘The fact that such an organisation [the RSPB] is not taking this problem seriously is scandalous.
‘They are supposed to protect birds. Instead they are advocating on behalf of an industry which kills birds. What could be more wrong and absurd than that?’
Dr John Etherington, former reader in ecology at the University of Wales and author of The Wind Farm Scam, said: ‘It seems to me that for some time now a green faction has penetrated a whole range of bodies and that the RSPB is one of them.
‘For an organisation that supposedly protects birds to team up with an industry that kills birds on the basis of unverifiable predictive models about climate change is just bizarre.
‘We are many years into discovering that these bloody machines kill birds in large numbers. Why is the RSPB still sticking up for them?’
Some members have complained that the RSPB isn’t nearly as active as it ought to be in fighting turbine applications – even in sites of ornithological value.
‘Instead of giving the turbine people hell, they usually end up giving them the green light,’ said Peter Shrubb, an RSPB member of 30 years, who is particularly appalled by the organisation’s plans to erect a 330ft turbine at its own headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire.
As an example of the danger, two hen harriers were killed by turbine blades in April last year at the Griffin windfarm at Aberfeldy in Scotland, run by the RSPB’s former partner SSE.
The charity waited eight months to announce the news but made no criticism of its former partner. Instead it said: ‘It is important to remember that climate change still poses one of the biggest threats to birds and other wildlife.’
It added that ‘windfarm collisions …… remain very rare indeed’.
BUT according to research by the ornithological society SEO/Birdlife, each wind turbine kills between 110 and 330 birds a year.
This means that worldwide, wind turbines kill at least 22 million birds a year.
The RSPB has disputed these figures, insisting: ‘Our own research suggests that a well-located wind farm is unlikely to be causing birds any harm.’
A spokesman for Ecotricity said that at one of its test sites near the Bristol Channel, the turbines had killed no more than four birds in five years.
Conservationists claim the wind industry has a vested interest in covering up the true extent of bird deaths.
Wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand recently wrote that the industry has known since the early Eighties that ‘propeller-style turbines’ could never be safe for birds of prey.
Mr Wiegand added: ‘With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at up to 200mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public-relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half.
‘To hide this awful truth, strict windfarm operating guidelines were established – including high security, gag orders in leases and other agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies.’
Anecdotal evidence from the US and Australia also suggests that windfarm operators often hide the bodies of dead birds in order to avoid being fined
Another trick, described by Wiegand, is for windfarm developers to confine their searches to limited areas directly below the wind turbines – leading to official body counts that grossly underestimate the true extent of bird mortality.
‘Wind turbines are always going to kill a disproportionately high number of birds of prey because they tend to be built in areas – uplands, mainly – where the best thermals are: in other words where the birds hover, perch and feed,’ said ecologist Clive Hambler, lecturer in biological and human sciences at Hertford College, Oxford.
The RSPB has objected to only six per cent of all new windfarm developments. But the charity’s conservation director Martin Harper claims it will always fight windfarm developments where birds are particularly threatened.
Henry Thoresby, an ornithologist who has fought several turbine applications, said that in his experience the RSPB is far too quick to withdraw its objections.
Legal aid curb for foreign migrants in Britain
Foreign migrants are to be banned from obtaining legal aid for civil claims until they have lived in Britain for at least a year.
The crackdown on immigrants’ rights is among the changes to be announced by ministers this week to cut the £1.7 billion legal aid bill by approximately £300 million.
It will hit illegal immigrants, failed asylum seekers and even those on tourist or student visas who have taken advantage of the lax rules or lack of checks on their status.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said the measures would be “difficult but sensible”. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph he said: “It’s not about denying people access to justice … it’s about achieving the right balance for what you can afford.”
Mr Grayling is to take an axe to criminal legal aid in an effort to limit large taxpayer-funded payments to lawyers. Some leading QCs can receive as much as £500,000 a year from the government for defending suspects.
The Justice Secretary said nobody whose earnings came from the public sector “should reasonably expect” to earn more than the Prime Minister, who is paid £142,000 a year.
The residency test for foreign migrants claiming civil legal aid comes after a promise by David Cameron to make Britain the “toughest” country on benefits for them.
Ministers will hold a consultation on a proposal to ensure that, in future, new arrivals will not be able to receive legal aid in cases that involve benefits, housing or relationship breakdowns.
A senior Coalition source said: “At a time when we have had to make difficult decisions about legal aid to ensure that taxpayers can have confidence in how we spend their money, we believe that in future, civil legal aid should be limited to those who have a strong connection to this country.”
There are currently no nationality or residence restrictions on civil legal aid. Ministers plan to make it a requirement for solicitors to see documentary evidence of at least 12-month residency before taking on cases.
There will be some exceptions, including serving members of the Armed Forces and their families, and asylum seekers.
Mr Grayling said: “There are a number of areas where somebody who comes to this country even on a tourist visa can access civil legal aid. We are going to change that.
“There have been examples of people who have come to the country for extraordinarily short periods of time who have had a relationship breakdown and then they end up in our courts at our expense to determine custody of the children.
“This will exclude people who enter the country illegally, who up to now have been able to access our legal aid system in a way I don’t think should ever have happened.”
Despite a previous crackdown on civil legal aid by Kenneth Clarke, who preceded Mr Grayling as justice secretary, Britain’s overall legal aid bill, at £1.7 billion a year, remains high. France, in contrast, spends £400 million.
And now it’s a crime in Britain to hate the Sex Pistols
Greater Manchester Police have revised their definition of what constitutes a ‘hate crime’ to include violent incidents involving punk rockers and heavy metal fans.
Not before time, you might think. Round up the lot of them and throw away the key. Or, as my Geordie mate Black Mike always jokes when he spots a Sid Vicious lookalike gobbing his way down the High Street: ‘Gi’ us a stick and I’ll kill it.’
But that isn’t what the bold Plod have got in mind. The new rules aren’t designed to protect society from gangs of punks and heavy metal headbangers. They’ve been drawn up to protect them from the rest of society.
GMP is becoming the first force to extend ‘hate crime’ status to those with ‘alternative sub-culture identity’. In future, these groups will be granted the same special treatment as racial, religious, gender identity, disabled and sexual minorities.
The police are also pressing for a change in the law which would mean anyone accused of violence or abuse towards one of these ‘vulnerable minorities’ would receive a stiffer sentence.
Which in the case of Black Mike could mean five years in The Scrubs if his trademark ‘Gi’ us a stick and I’ll kill it’ crack is ever overhead by a passing off-duty copper or vigilant member of the public.
The absurd GMP Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: ‘The launch of this new strand of recordable hate crime is a major breakthrough. ‘We must recognise the impact that alternative sub-culture hate crime has on its victims and the wider community, we can offer better support and risk assess the potential for repeat victimisation.’
Manchester cops are to be given special sensitivity training in handling complaints from punks, ‘metallers’, goths and ‘emos’.
I’ve been trying to imagine the training session at GMP headquarters. ‘Now then, listen up. OK, yesterday we learned about goths. This morning we’re going to talk about dealing with emos.’
‘Emus? Has one escaped from Chester Zoo, guv? Isn’t that a job for the RSPCA?’ ‘Not emus, Hollis, emos.’
For the uninitiated, goths look like they’ve just wandered off the set of a Hammer horror movie.
Think Morticia from the Addams Family. Emos look pretty much the same to me, but they’re said to be a lot more sensitive. Emotional, geddit?
I’m assuming most people can spot a punk a mile off. The heavy metal brigade dress like Lemmy from Motorhead; long hair, dirty jeans, scruffy T-shirts and leather jackets.
If you’ve ever been to a heavy metal concert, the audience won’t have struck you as all that ‘vulnerable’. Upset one of them and you’ll probably end up with a motorcycle chain wrapped round your head. And that’s just the women.
According to the latest figures available, in January there were 25,411 crimes reported in Greater Manchester, including 2,500 burglaries, 10,800 incidents of anti-social behaviour and another 2,500 involving violence.
I wonder how many victims of violent crimes were drawn from the goth, punk, heavy metal or emo communities? Precisely. So why this sudden emphasis on members of ‘alternative identity sub-cultures’?
All this was sparked by the tragic death of 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked along with her boyfriend in a park in Bacup, Lancs, by a mob who took exception to her goth clothing and stark make-up.
That was back in 2007. Since then, her courageous mother has been campaigning tirelessly for such senseless attacks on people with ‘alternative lifestyles’ to be treated as ‘hate crime’.
It is perfectly understandable that a grieving mum would want her precious daughter’s memory kept alive. But there is always a danger in changing the law on the basis of a single case, however horrifying.
This is not to belittle the sad loss of Sophie Lancaster — or the sheer barbarity of the attack on her — but the laws to prosecute her killers were already on the statute book.
Are we now saying that attacks on punk rockers, goths and emos are more heinous than, say, a violent mugging of someone who doesn’t belong to a ‘vulnerable minority’. Is one life worth less than another?
Violent attacks on anyone because of their skin colour, religion or sexual proclivity are repellent.
Those responsible deserve exemplary punishments. The motivation behind the crime is something a court can take into account when passing sentence.
But once you start giving preferential treatment to people on the basis of their dress sense or musical tastes, how many other ‘alternative sub-culture identities’ will this be extended to include — mods, teddy boys, New Romantics, skinheads? That’s the problem when you single out any individual group under the law. There’s no limit.
To be honest, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of a ‘hate crime’ statute. How do you decide what is a ‘hate crime’ and what isn’t? More to the point, who decides what is a ‘hate crime’?
Increasingly, the definition is being expanded to include ‘hate speech’, which the Left pretend covers any criticism — however legitimate and justified — of the behaviour of one of their favoured client groups.
The truth is that most ‘hate speech’ comes from the Left these days, as they seek to demonise, prosecute or ruin professionally anyone who challenges their intolerant orthodoxies.
You would expect this new initiative to find favour with the former Met Police chief Ian Blair, who worshipped at the altar of ‘diversity’ and embraced every passing Left-wing political fashion.
Yet, speaking on London’s LBC Radio yesterday, he said trying to equate crimes against punk rockers and heavy metal fans with hatred directed at genuine minority groups was a bridge too far.
And when even Ian Blair says it’s bonkers, trust me. It’s bonkers.
The Great British Welfare Myth: The chattering classes are peddling a poisonous myth – that the poor cannot survive without the soul- deadening embrace of welfarism
It was the week the battle over benefits exploded into life as liberals howled about Tory cuts. But here a leading Left-wing thinker says the chattering classes are peddling a poisonous myth – that the poor cannot survive without the soul- deadening embrace of welfarism.
The thing about receiving incapacity benefit is that you really start believing you’re incapable. The Government tells you you’re incapable, and it sinks in: I’m useless, I can’t work, I must be looked after.’
So says an old friend of mine who lives in the most deprived ward in Barnet, North London, where we both grew up. After suffering anxiety attacks, he’s been ‘on the sick’ — that is, receiving some form of sickness benefit — for nearly five years. It is, he assures me, an unpleasant existence.
‘You get sucked into a life of uselessness. The Government gives you enough money to live on, but you don’t live. You do the same thing day in, day out. See the same people, watch the same TV, drift off to sleep in mid-afternoon.’
The welfare system subjugates the poor, ensnaring them in a trap of dependency, and crushing their horizons
The welfare system subjugates the poor, ensnaring them in a trap of dependency, and crushing their horizons
He says he’s pleased Iain Duncan Smith is shaking up benefits paid to ‘the incapable’, alongside other forms of welfare. More than two million Brits receive sickness-related benefits, and my friend reckons many of them must be like him: not really sick, but simply treated as sick by a welfare system with more money than sense.
He agrees with Grant Shapps, chairman of the Conservative Party, who says of the army of sickness claimants: ‘It is not that these people were trying to play the system, so much as these people were forced into a system that played them.’
This is the side to the welfare debate we rarely hear about, at least not from Left-wing politicians and commentators: how the welfare system subjugates the poor, ensnaring them in a trap of dependency, and crushing their horizons.
Over the past week, as IDS’s welfare reforms have kicked in, we’ve heard quite the opposite from middle-class liberals who have been tearing their hair out over the fact that the poor aren’t rising up against them.
They’re bamboozled as to why the down-at-heel haven’t peeled their eyes away from the Jeremy Kyle Show, got off their subsidised sofas and marched to Whitehall to demand: ‘Leave our welfare payments alone.’
Where well-off, Left-leaning do-gooders in Britain’s leafier suburbs are weeping into their macchiato coffees over the Tories’ trims to welfare spending, the poor seem unmoved. What is wrong with these ungrateful urchins, plummy-voiced radicals wonder?
What the posh warriors for welfarism don’t understand is that the poor do not share their enthusiasm for the welfare state, for one very simple reason: like my friend, they know what the welfare state is like, and what a corrupting influence it can have on individual ambition and community life.
They have seen with their own eyes what the intrusion of welfarism into every nook and cranny of poor people’s lives can do.
They know it is not a liberating force, but a soul-deadening one, which doesn’t improve less well-off communities but rather turns them into ghost towns, maintained by faraway faceless bureaucrats rather than by the community’s own members.
The chattering classes now refer to Monday, April 1, when the Government’s benefit reforms were enacted, as Black Monday. They call IDS a ‘Tory toff’ who is launching an ‘ideological war’ against the poor. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee has said that the poor will be hit by an ‘avalanche of cuts’ which will propel them into ‘beggary’.
In this lip-smackingly Dickensian view of what will become of Britain, we might soon expect to see women in shawls selling soap on London Bridge and children in torn trousers going back up chimneys.
IDS might only be putting a cap on the annual increase in benefits people can receive, slightly reducing some people’s housing benefit, and rethinking Disability Living Allowance, yet his increasingly shrill critics paint a picture of him turfing the downtrodden out of their homes and into a gutter-based life of Oliver Twist-style precariousness.
When the pro-welfare lobby isn’t wildly exaggerating the severity of IDS’s chopping, it is demonising those who dare to raise questions about the impact welfarism has had on poor communities.
So anyone who suggests that Mick Philpott’s decadent, deeply unproductive lifestyle in Derby may have been a product of welfarism, of the thoughtless casting of the welfarist net across entire poor communities, is shot down in flames.
Some commentators, and now the Chancellor George Osborne, have said that the Philpott case raises questions about the way the state has sustained, ad infinitum, those who don’t work or contribute to society.
But they’re mercilessly attacked by pro-welfare activists, who treat any attempt to critique welfarism as tantamount to committing a hate crime against the poor and ‘vulnerable’.
Yet no matter how much these observers ramp up the rage, still they fail to inspire those who are actually on benefits to join them in their battle.
In fact, far from wanting to fight in defence of welfarism, less well-off people seem positively suspicious of the welfare state, and this drives middle-class campaigners crazy.
John Harris, a columnist for the Guardian, this week expressed his dismay that anti-welfare ‘noise’ always gets ‘louder as you head into the most disadvantaged parts of society’.
Indeed, earlier this year a study by the Left-leaning Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust found that poor families, including those affected by welfare cuts, take ‘the harshest anti-welfare line’.
The study’s lead researcher was thrown by this. “Logically, I’d expect those at the sharp end of things to be pro-welfare,’ she said. ‘But if anything, many had internalised a Thatcherite every-man-for-himself mentality.’”
Other studies make for interesting reading, too. A British Social Attitudes Survey in 2003 found that 82 per cent of people on benefits agreed that ‘the Government should be the main provider of support to the unemployed’, but by 2011 that number had fallen to 62 per cent.
The proportion of working-class people in work who agree with that statement has fallen from 81 per cent to 67 per cent in the same period.
In 2003, 40 per cent of benefits recipients agreed that ‘unemployment benefits are too high and discourage work’; in 2011, 59 per cent agreed. So a majority of actual benefits recipients now think the welfare state is too generous and fosters worklessness.
Surely those well-off welfare cheerleaders, when shown these figures, would accept that perhaps they don’t know what they’re talking about. But no, they have simply come up with a theory for why the poor are anti-welfare: because they’re stupid.
The Trades Union Congress says the little people have been ‘brainwashed by Tory welfare myths’.
They claim the masses have been duped by Right-wing politicians and newspapers that spread myths about ‘welfare scroungers’. Consequently, ordinary people are apparently consumed by ‘prejudice and ignorance’ about welfarism.
One commentator says the problem is that not enough people read the Guardian. In a column for that paper on why the less well-off aren’t fans of the welfare state, she said: ‘Are the public stupid, or simply people who don’t read the Guardian? Well, yes …”
This is a spectacularly patronising view. The idea that the only reason the poor are critical of welfarism is because they’ve been ‘brainwashed’ suggests a view of those people as utterly gullible.
In truth, there’s a far simpler explanation. Most of those who have experienced a life reliant on benefits have come to understand the detrimental impact it has had on their lives. The cult of welfarism also fosters divisions in less well-off communities.
Those who work, who leave the house at 7am to earn a wage for themselves and their families, start to feel antagonistic towards those who don’t work, whose curtains remain firmly closed well into the late morning.
Three of my brothers work in the building trade, and the one political issue that riles them is what one of them calls ‘subsidised laziness’.
This isn’t because they hate the poor, or think everyone on the dole could magically get a job tomorrow morning if they got their fingers out.
Nor is it because they’ve been brainwashed by anti-welfare tabloid newspapers, as liberal campaigners would have us believe.
Rather it’s because they recognise that the exponential expansion of the welfare net, the transformation of welfare-reliance into a permanent state of existence for many of the poor, makes worklessness into a way of life rather than a temporary predicament.
It actively encourages people to give up, to stay home, to be ‘kept men’ rather than working men. And naturally, working men don’t like that.
Indeed, there’s a long-standing tradition of poor communities expressing profound hostility to welfarist assistance, even when they have needed it.
In the Thirties, when early forms of state welfare were introduced, many of the unemployed came to resent their ‘new status as citizen beneficiaries of state welfare’, as one academic study put it. They found claiming state welfare humiliating.
In 1945 — the year the modern welfare state was born — a former cabinet-maker from the East End of London published a book about his life, titled I Was One Of The Unemployed. He described how, in Thirties and Forties Britain, he and many others who found themselves out of work felt an ‘innate morbid sensitivity’ towards ‘having to depend upon state welfare’.
The poor experienced a ‘sense of wounded pride at being driven by hunger to ask for cash benefits’, he said.
Even the most radical old Leftists, unlike today’s uncritical, poor-pitying Leftists, issued cutting criticisms of the welfarist ideology.
In 1850, Karl Marx described very early forms of top-down ‘welfare measures’ as a ‘disguised form of alms’ that were designed to make people’s less-than-ambitious lives seem ‘tolerable’.
That is, welfare was a way of placating the poor, lowering their horizons and acclimatising them to a life of mere survival.
As Pat Thane, a professor of history at King’s College, London, pointed out in a 1999 essay on early forms of state welfare, the less well-off were suspicious of welfarism that seemed ‘to imply that poor people needed the guidance of their “betters”
The end result of this propping-up of communities is the kind of world Mick Philpott lived in
Working-class mothers hated the way that signing up for welfare meant having to throw one’s home and life open to inspection by snooty officials, community health workers and even family budget advisers.
They didn’t want ‘middle-class strangers’, as they called welfare providers, ‘questioning them about their children’. They felt such intrusions ‘broke a cultural taboo’.
And the use of welfare as a way of allowing society’s ‘betters’ to govern the lives of the poor continues now. Indeed, today’s welfare state is even more annoyingly nannyish than it was 80 years ago.
As the writer Ferdinand Mount says, the post-war welfare state is like a form of ‘domestic imperialism’, through which the state treats the poor as ‘natives’ who must be fed and kept on the moral straight-and-narrow by their superiors.
Mount describes modern welfarism as ‘benign managerialism’, which ‘pacifies’ the lower orders.
Working-class communities feel this patronising welfarist control very acutely. They recognise that signing up for a lifetime of state charity means sacrificing your pride and your independence; it means being unproductive and also unfree.
The cultivation of such dependency on the state has a devastating impact on community life in poor parts of Britain. Because if an individual’s or family’s every financial and therapeutic need is being met by the state, then what need is there for those people to turn to their own neighbours for help or advice?
Welfarism doesn’t only destroy individual pride and independence — it also eats away at social solidarity, the glue of local life, by encouraging people to become more reliant on the state than on their friends and neighbours.
The end result of this propping-up of communities is the kind of world Mick Philpott lived in, where a sense of entitlement to state cash overpowers any feeling of personal moral responsibility for improving one’s life, or any sense of duty to the community.
So to my mind, there’s no mystery as to why the poor are refusing to join the fight to preserve the massive and unwieldy welfare state: it’s because they live in the very areas where welfarism has wreaked its worst horrors.
It is the bleeding heart campaigners fighting to defend welfarism who are spreading a poisonous myth: that the less well-off could never survive, far less thrive, without financial assistance,