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Not one of his better moments: Adam Hills hosts The Last Leg, whose segment on Iain Duncan Smith and the incapacity benefit deaths lost its footing.

Not one of his better moments: Adam Hills hosts The Last Leg, whose segment on Iain Duncan Smith and the incapacity benefit deaths lost its footing [Image not from the September 4 show].

Thank goodness the makers of one mainstream TV programme were willing to cover the release of incapacity benefit death statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions – but isn’t it a shame the coverage was derailed because of the comment they used to start the item?

One might expect The Last Leg to cover Iain Duncan Smith’s treatment of people on incapacity benefits, but it was not a certainty – This Writer was sending direct messages to the production team via Twitter in advance of the release on August 27, with no response. Has anybody seen coverage on any other mainstream UK TV programme – a news programme, possibly?

So it was a delight to see a figure of the Grim Reaper, with a photograph of the Gentleman Ranker stuck to its face, on Adam Hills’ desk in the advert that ran ahead of tonight’s (September 4) show.

Unfortunately, the producers had chosen to start the show with a comment that proved unfortunate. A viewer had tweeted to ask if it was okay that the release of the figures showed people were more likely to die after being found fit for work by the DWP than from being murdered.

This week’s guest, Lee Mack, interjected to point out that anyone who is murdered is going to be dead anyway, and that the statistical likelihood of being murdered in the UK is very small, so the comment didn’t mean very much at all.

The point that was being made – and missed by Lee – was that murder is illegal in this country. Anybody found guilty, in a court of law, of committing murder is sentenced to life imprisonment.

But it is perfectly legal to find a person with serious long-term illnesses or disabilities fit for work, cut them off from the payments to which they are entitled – and on which they rely for their continued existence, subject them to extreme stress that is likely to worsen their medical condition and seriously disturb their mental health…

… and then wait for them to die of the worsened condition – or commit suicide – and say nature took its course.

We shouldn’t blame Lee Mack. He’s a very shallow person when he’s on shows like this – and tends to say anything he thinks will get a laugh, without considering any knock-on effects. But any one of the three hosts – Mr Hills, Alex Brooker or Josh Widdicombe – would have been well within their rights to cut him short and tell him, in the words of one of the show’s catchphrases: “Don’t be a dick!”

Who knows? The interjection might turn out to be highly lucrative for Mr Mack. The DWP, at least, owes him some form of payment for the service he performed for the government and Iain Duncan Smith.

Some of us are less well-pleased.

One problem with the figures, cited by Adam Hills, was the fact that they are so vague that it is very hard to understand what they mean. But then – as mentioned at the top of this article – the production team has a direct line of contact with the person who requested those figures in the first place.

All they had to do was ask. Why didn’t they?

Still, the story isn’t over and This Writer is working hard to get more figures, along with clarity on what is already available.

Let’s hope they get it right next time.

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