Back in August I blogged that welfare reform was the make or break issue for the Coalition. At that time I believed Osborne might be more of a captive of the Treasury than he has turned out to be, for to my relieved surprise it seems that Iain Duncan-Smith and his Work and Pensions team have prevailed.
The absence of damaging leaks during the gestation of the reform argues very strongly that IDS continues to command the loyalty of his officials, contrary to the stereotype of IDS as a backwoods Tory and of the Ministry of Work and Pensions as the Slough of Despond, which speaks very well of both parties.
As though to prove that British political journopukes depend absolutely on leaks from Whitehall, they have chosen to ignore the above-titled blueprint for the reforms (executive summary here) published two weeks ago by IDS's Centre for Social Justice.
Ed Balls's wife and ex-journopuke Yvette Cooper, who shadows IDS, whined yesterday that "we haven't seen the details yet". Well, "we" have - you, on the other hand, are a lazy bitch who has not bothered to read the report and who will no doubt be guided by what your friends in the Guardian tell you to say.
What she means, of course, is that the devil will be in the details of how the reform works in practice; but although there will be administrative blunders and whole categories of relatively better-off people will lose entitlements, she will find few who do not agree that the existing system is an Augean stables.
I'm not going to comment on the trees but on the wood: this is a long-term reform with the financial and political costs incurred early, and whose benefits may well not be felt until the next parliament, by which time the Coalition may have been voted out of office.
It's called statesmanship - a concept that will be unfamiliar to a whole generation of Britons.