Spending before saving
Britain's most effective pressure group appears at first glance to be... the Conservative Party.
Want a tougher crack down on incapacity benefit claimants?
Yes, you've guessed it, the Tories called for it and today ministers will pledge to do it.
Now I did say "at first glance" because the truth is, and the Tories privately acknowledge it, that many of the ideas they've called for have originally come from the Labour Party or - to be more precise - from Blairites.
Take today's example. It was Blairite John Hutton who, as minister for welfare, commissioned the Freud Report which recommended new medical tests for all existing incapacity benefit claimants. The Tories took up the idea when they saw Chancellor Gordon Brown resist it.
Their claim that they could cut taxes with the money saved convinced Prime Minister Brown that he was, after all, in favour of it.
So it is with the more important part of today's welfare announcement which is a dull-sounding accounting change but which has huge significance. It's called AME-DEL - not after the names of two benefit claimants but as an acronym of two budget headings - Annual Managed Expenditure and Departmental Expenditure Limits.
Benefits - a whopping £37 billion for those of working age - are paid for under AME which are controlled annually as the name suggest. Back to work programmes are, however, paid for from the much smaller three year departmental budget set aside for them - around £420 million in 2006/7 - covered by DEL.
David Freud - who was commissioned by John Hutton - had the idea - which he borrowed from America - and which the Tories advocated - and which the government will today announce pilot schemes for.
The idea is to make money from AME and give it to DEL. In other words, to change the rules to allow ministers to spend some of the money they've set aside for future benefit payments on getting people back to work now.
Simple sounding but a truly radical step for the Treasury as they'll be spending money before they've saved it.