You will probably have read about the tragic case of David Clapson (at least, if you read the Daily Mirror or get your news from the internet). The story first emerged on the same day that Matthew Oakley published his report into the way that sanctions were working. Clapson's death was first reported in his local paper, but then was taken up by the Mirror with an uncompromising headline: "Killed by benefits cuts: Starving soldier died 'as result of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reform'." What made this case so difficult to brush aside was that Clapson couldn't be labelled as a scrounger, even by the most bigoted of right-wingers. He was a former soldier who had given up work to care for his sick mother and, since her death, was looking for work. He was sanctioned for missing an appointment. He was a diabetic, dependent on insulin (which he couldn't take when his electricity was cut off and he couldn't keep it cool). He died of the consequences of not having the insulin; but there was also no food in his stomach.
The Mirror returned to the story yesterday when David's sister launched a petition for an enquiry into sanctions. A campaigner for just such a petition is Debbie Abrahams MP, a member of the Work & Pensions select committee. She thought that Esther McVey had agreed to it at one of the committee's meetings; but I watched that meeting, and felt that McVey had dodged it. And why would McVey, let alone IDS, agree to such an enquiry? McVey has lied to the House of Commons (supposedly a serious offence) by stating that sanctions are "only used as a last resort". Even Matthew Oakley pointed out that that is not true. And why would they want to investigate the fact that, as the Mirror says, almost a million people apparently deserved punishment by destitution last year?
They know that not enough voters care to make a difference. Even with the Clapson case there were plenty of people saying that he must have been mentally ill - as if that would make it understandable. But the ministers also take the view that these are not really people at all. They inhabit a totally different conceptual universe, one in which the poor are not really human. And once you've dehumanised someone it is easy to treat him with brutality.
The sanctions regime is brutal. Every time someone is sanctioned without good reason a crime is being committed. No, they won't have an enquiry.