Have you noticed that the Work Programme doesn't exist any more? Up to last Autumn it was dropped into every pronouncement by Tory ministers; but after the publication of the performance data it's as if an edict has gone out saying don't, under any circumstances, mention it. Too embarrassing.
Even today, when Chris Grayling was doing the rounds to talk about his latest brilliant idea - outsourcing the Probation Service on a payment-by-results basis - hardly any journalists brought up the failure of the WP. Their short memories are very convenient for the politicians. They lose interest very quickly. Only the Telegraph has published anything about A4e's accounts.
But something must be going on behind the scenes, surely. The providers, if not losing money, are not making any profits, and updated performance figures will have to be published sooner or later. Who will blink first? Will a provider pull out of the contract, or will the government pull the plug on the whole thing? Is Mark Hoban trying to renegotiate the contracts?
It seems that there's been a backlash over the language being used about people on benefits. The Independent is leading the way in reporting this. Last Friday it publicised a poll commissioned by the TUC showing that "a campaign by Tory ministers is turning voters against claimants – but only because the public is being fed 'myths' about those who rely on benefits." The article goes on: "According to YouGov, four out of 10 people think benefits are too generous and three in five believe the system has created a culture of dependency. However, people who know least about the facts are the most hostile towards claimants. More than half of those who are 'least accurate' about the system think benefits are too generous, while fewer than one in three (31 per cent) of those giving the 'most accurate' answers agree." Today the paper reports that the Tory campaign team has been told to tone down the language. "Mr Duncan Smith was appalled by a Tory online advert last month showing a man on a sofa, asking whether the Government should support 'hard-working families or people who won't work'". Nice. Apparently one Tory minister told the paper: "Some people who lose their jobs and many people on tax credits, are strivers not scroungers." (my italics) How generous of him. Methinks he doesn't get it. Two of the Lib Dems, Sarah Teather and Vince Cable, are completely unequivocal that the language is wrong and damaging.