I've just heard Esther McVey lying about sanctions on Radio 4. No surprise there. The unemployment figures are out, and it's tempting for ignorant commentators to link the slight fall to the sanctions regime, in a simple-minded way. Iain Duncan Smith announces even more restrictions on the ability of immigrants to claim benefits, standing on what he fondly imagines is the moral high ground; but he hasn't publicly replied to Archbishop Nichols, who is sticking to his guns. No, he's left that to his mate Dave, who has claimed, in an extraordinary piece in the Telegraph, that the government is on a "moral mission". He accuses the Cardinal of saying things which are not true. "Mr Cameron insisted that no one would be left destitute by the welfare reforms and said the claim the basic safety net no longer exists is untrue."
Cameron misunderstands the concept of morality. I'm tempted to refer to the Christian gospels, but I know that cuts no ice with a lot of people (it ought to with IDS, but apparently doesn't). Morality starts with the way you treat individuals. You do not sacrifice them to some self-appointed mission. All the most monstrous dictators of the 20th century believed that individual suffering had no significance in pursuit of the grand plan. I really don't know whether Cameron knows that he is not telling the truth when he makes his claims; but a moral person would take steps to check. Instead, like all of his government, he has simply turned his back. He might like to read an article in the Independent which reports a survey of GPs in their trade magazine, Pulse. 16% of the doctors have been asked to refer a patient to a food bank in the last year. One Everton GP describes his experience of this in detail. Hospital diagnoses of malnutrition have nearly doubled in the last 5 years, and academics have called it an emerging "public health emergency". Now that, Mr Cameron, really is a moral matter.
Today, many people are staging demonstrations at the various offices of ATOS. On Monday we read in the Guardian that a leaked document shows that the government is preparing to shove ATOS out of its WCA contracts. They want, first, to bring in more contractors; and then to push ATOS out altogether. But a competition lawyer is quoted as saying that it wouldn't be lawful, because they would have decided in advance that they were going to exclude one bidder from the tendering process. While many would rejoice at the ousting of this company, the competition could only come from those on the government's "framework" of favoured companies. And that means Serco, G4S, Capita and - yes - A4e.