This article in The Scotsman has been doing the rounds on twitter this evening. It's the tragic story of a talented writer who has been having a savage time, and killed himself because his benefits were to be cut.
As a left liberal, the progress of the parliament is troubling me. I am finding the cuts in housing benefit, and rise in VAT (for example) hard to swallow even if I try to justify it with pointing out the compromises we've managed to lever out of our coalition partners like the 10% rise in capital gains tax. I do think it's the job of the opposition and the press to hold the government to account on these issues and judge them by results. I think this very important as public opinion and strong enough pressure may strengthen the case of those in the coalition who would like to see policy remain as fair as possible in the face of some damn ugly ideology coming from the right.
However, this story does nothing to help that case as it's pure screaming hyperbole. Life on benefits is brutal, and the bureaucracy and hoop-jumping involved in justifying your uselessness enough to get helped to survive when you can't support yourself is depressing even for the strongest of souls. But that's nothing new. It has been ever thus. This guy's death can't be linked to any action of the current government as reforms don't come into force yet, and weren't even announced until the day of the funeral.
Paul Reekie's death was horrible, and it's certainly a sobering reminder of the responsibility the government has to protect and support the most vulnerable. In my view though, it's nothing short of cynically disingenuous to suggest (as the deceased's social circle, this journalist, and the left-activists who have been reposting the link have done) that the current administration is directly to blame. To really believe that this "wouldn't have happened under Labour", you'd have to be quite astoundingly unaware of life at the sharp end over the last few years when the supposed progressives were running the show. In case you need reminding, the gap between rich and poor in this country, in terms of education (education education), health, and income disparity, WIDENED in the thirteen years the last government held power.
It's pretty sick to use someone's death as a means of political pointscoring, and will turn people off listening and taking it seriously when *fair* and damning commentary is made.