Why has it all gone quiet over the Barnett Formula? And could it be anything to do with Glasgow East? Here's my column in today's Newcastle Journal.
Earlier this year, a brief flurry of excitement went around the Westminster village that Gordon Brown might be about to do something that few thought possible for a Scottish PM.
The Treasury had ordered a study into the workings of the controversial Barnett funding formula which governs the allocation of public spending within the UK - surely a precursor to its eventual abolition.
At the same time, Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems agreed to set up a Commission to look at the Scottish Parliament’s powers and funding, likely to include consideration of whether the Scots should move towards greater financial self-sufficiency.
Could the 30-year-old formula, long a source of disquiet in the North-East on account of the tens of millions of additional spending it awards to Scotland, finally be on the way out?
BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson certainly thought so, proclaiming on his blog that "the skids appear finally to be under the Barnett Formula.”
I myself was slightly more circumspect, commenting on these pages that the long battle for a fair funding deal for the North-East still had a way to go yet.
Since then, though, nothing. Maybe Mr Brown has thought better of it. Maybe the various reviews, studies and commissions are taking longer than expected to come to fruition.
Most likely, it's been put on the back burner pending the resolution of other political crises requiring more immediate attention.
The issue, of course, has not gone away. This week's report by the regional think-tank ippr north once again underlined the case for reform.
It found that although the gap between Scotland and the North-East in terms of public spending has narrowed in recent years, it still stands at £716 per head.
The report's main author Guy Lodge said the Barnett formula was no longer "fit for purpose" and should be replaced.
"It does not result in a fair distribution of spending, and is becoming an increasing source of tension between the nations of the UK," he added.
In its response to Thursday's report, the Treasury certainly gave little indication that anything was about to change.
It said there were "no plans" to change the Barnett formula, describing it as "a fair allocation which reflects population shares in the different nations of the United Kingdom" - which is pretty much what it's been saying for the past 11 years.
But whatever the reason behind the apparent lull in government activity around the issue, it is doubtful that much more is going to happen in the next fortnight at least.
Why? Because on July 24, voters in Glasgow East will go to the polls to elect a successor to Labour MP David Marshall, who resigned his seat on the grounds of ill-health last month.
Like Crewe and Nantwich, like Henley, this was undoubtedly a by-election that Mr Brown could have done without.
The main opponent will be Alex Salmond's Scottish Nationalists, and even the slightest movement on the Barnett Formula is bound to be exploited.
Mr Salmond, indeed, got his retaliation in early in his response to Thursday's report, saying: "It is abundantly clear that the motivation of both Labour and the Tories on this issue is slashing Scottish spending."
He claims that, far from being subsidised by England, Scotland's oil revenues are actually subsidising the rest of the UK to the tune of £4.4bn a year.
Does Glasgow East represent any sort of threat to Mr Brown, given that Mr Marshall had a majority of 13,507and had held the seat for Labour since 1979?
Well, ordinarily, no - but these are not ordinary times and the Prime Minister's record in by-elections thus far hardly inspires confidence.
Furthermore, there is one aspect of the Glasgow East contest that carries a particular danger for Mr Brown - the fact that it is taking place in his own Scottish political backyard.
If he can't win this one, Labour MPs will justifiably start to wonder whether he can actually win anywhere.
Mr Brown can at least take comfort from the fact that the by-election is taking place two days after the start of the summer Parliamentary recess, reducing the scope for plotting.
But the fact that even Harriet Harman has been talked about during the past week as a possible replacement demonstrates the extent of the trouble the Prime Minister is in.
My guess is that Labour will hang on, and that the immediate danger for Mr Brown will recede until the start of the conference season in September.
But as for the future of the Barnett Formula, the Prime Minister finds himself as caught between a rock and a hard place as he ever was.
It was, I think, always Labour's hope that it could safely ignore the problem, and that the formula would simply wither on the vine as spending between the different parts of the UK gradually converged.
It has now become clear, though, that this process will take so long that unless something is done sooner, the union could well fall apart in the meantime.
Reforming the Barnett Formula might have been one of the many radical things that Mr Brown dreamed of doing once he got to Number Ten.
Now he's there, though, he has found himself far too preoccupied simply with staying alive.