But I want to make a small point about some of the commentary on it. This Times leader, a voice that strives for respectability, is a good example.
But this is not just a story about Haringey, or the child protection system. It is a story about Britain today. … Baby P was not killed by low-paid social workers, but at the hands of adults who were unimaginably depraved. These adults were part of Britain's dependency community.
… The story of Baby P provides a glimpse into the colossal failure of community, in which dependency on the State is a way of life.
The story of Baby P is one that will haunt Britain for years to come. But for some, its message is already all too clear: that this has become a country where the State's largesse can be a lifelong livelihood; where parents can have as many children with as many partners as they please without feeling obliged to care for any of them; and where the maximum penalty for a campaign of torture and sadism against a defenceless child is 14 years in prison.
You can find less temperate phrasing in the tabloids, but the basic point, and the sheer wrongness of it, are apparent here.
I’m happy to hear the argument that welfare can breed dependency, sapping both initiative and personal responsibility. Sometimes this case, one-sided as it is, has merits and sometimes not. But this use of it is really beyond the pale. The destruction of Baby P’s life is a crime of a wholly different magnitude from the ‘fecklessness’ that right-wingers denounce among welfare recipients. There is no continuum that slides from fiddling the dole to beating a baby to death.
It is an awful case; it may well be emblematic of the worst in British society and of the worst in human nature; but it is exceptional. That it has happened says far less about us than how we choose to respond.
They say that hard cases make bad laws; they can also make bad ideologies.
(And, with a little more poignancy than usual, it’s this time of year.)