It was supposed to be the kind of stone that kills two birds. As laid out in this year's Budget, the proposal for a cap on the total cost of the welfare bill was set to both bash benefit claimants (which voters like) and be responsible with the public money (which voters expect).
Instead the chancellor made a decision, revealed in today's autumn statement, which potentially ruins the policy's impact altogether.
"I have had representations that the basic state pension should be included," George Osborne said.
"But that would mean cutting pensions for those who've worked hard all their lives because the costs on, say, housing benefit for young people had got out of control.
"That's not fair – so we won't include the state pension, which is better controlled over a longer period."
What he actually meant was:
"Policy Exchange wrote a report earlier this summer telling me that not including the basic state pension is a terrible idea.
"Doing that would mean losing votes among a key demographic for Conservative voters.
"That's crazy talk - so we won't do it, and make up some excuses about it being better controlled over a longer period."
A look at the green book doesn't talk about fairness, the chancellor's main reason on offer in the Commons chamber, at all.
Instead it suggests increasing the state pension age "to account for rising longevity" is a better way of tackling the problem.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't suggest that the state pension can't be capped overall. Which is what the whole point of the move is about.
The thinking behind the cap is straightforward: welfare spending has somehow managed to get out of control in recent decades, rising from less than five per cent of GDP in the 1950s to around 13.5% of GDP now.
Part of the problem is it included in a bit of the government's finances separate from the departmental budgets, whose spending has been so brutally chopped by the coalition in recent years.
A full half of public spending doesn't even fall within those limits. The rest of it is made up of debt interest payments, tax credits, benefits for working-age claimants and pensioner welfare.
It's the latter which Osborne, for the sake of thousands of votes up and down the country, is determined to protect.
This wouldn't be a problem if state pension costs didn't now constitute £40 billion of extra spending in today's prices.
"While politically challenging, it is a numerical necessity for the broadest range of benefits to be placed inside the cap," former Treasury official Matthew Oakley in this report earlier this year.
"This will mean that, following the next election, disability benefits, pensioner benefits and pensions themselves will need to be considered.
"Without inclusion of these aspects, it could be extremely difficult for major savings to be delivered in order to meet a cap."
The basic state pension looks like it's not being included - and nor are what the Treasury calls "the most cyclical elements of welfare". Does that threaten the viability of Osborne's cap? It looks like it just might.
A society's culture is the fault of nobody - and everyone. If there really is a link between the appalling stories of child-on-child sex abuse revealed today and a culture of pornography, we should all have some serious thinking to do.
There are two sex stories in the news this morning.
One is based on research on sexual attitudes and lifestyles in Britain. It's fluffy and giggly stuff. More women are kissing each other. More older people are bumping uglies. With more people taking smartphones and tablets into the bed, they're getting distracted from having sex.
The other story is the complete opposite - a warning from the deputy children's commissioner that society is so obsessed with paedophiles abusing young people that the "appalling reality" of sexual violence and exploitation by children and teenagers is being ignored.
Panel members investigating this were left "aghast" by what they found. It's not just the appallingly high instances of rape, either. It's that forms of coercion or persuasion falling short of the statutory definition of consent are starting to be viewed as normal.
Does story number one really have anything to do with story number two? Is the finding, for example, that women aged 16 to 44 have had 7.7 sexual partners on average, up from 3.7 20 years ago, related to the fact that between April 2010 and March 2011 there were 16,500 children and young people at high risk of sexual exploitation?
Not directly, of course. But if one points to an increasingly sexualised society, then there might just be a case for linking that trend with the sense of drift and ignorance in British society about the true extent of sexual coercion and exploitation among teenagers.
The extremities of disrespect shown towards young women may stem from a broader contempt for girls purely driven by gender. That's the view of Participant Z3, an 18-year-old woman, interviewed in a study out today by the University of Bedfordshire. Here's what she had to say on the sexual victimisation within gang culture in Britain:
"It's just like society, innit? Like women don't get that much respect in society like a guy. A man can have a job and a woman can have the same job but a man can get paid more, do you know what I mean? It's just always that guys always have the upper power. It's just how society is, men naturally get more respect… men are just dominating it."
Put that into the context of one 16-year-old boy's story. He explains how it usually happens.
A boy and a girl go to a party. The boy has sex with the girl at the party. He then persuades the girl to have sex with ten more boys. "She's not coming to meet them to have sex with like ten boys but she'll probably end up doing that cos she's persuaded and cos she likes the first boy that she was with," this 16-year-old explains.
And now you know why the panel members were left "aghast" at what they found.
It's such a brutal story it's very hard to think this can really be something to do with there being more images of sexy women on the high streets.
Yet some believe the two are linked. "We live in an age now where the merging of sex and coercion has become normalised and this is because society has become so sexualised," says Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at the charity YoungMinds.
Actually, a closer link between the two stories comes in the form of pornography. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles finds that part of the reason we're having a bit less sex than 20 years ago is because online porn is becoming more of a substitute for the real thing.
It's the readily available nature of that pornography - which virtually every teenage male can now get access to - which is so troubling.
The question then becomes: if we're all to blame, what are we all going to do about it?
This is where the politicians come in.
David Cameron has responded to efforts to address this by taking the internet providers to task, but using filtering software to block access isn't really going to work.
Diane Abbott, the Labour backbencher, has been the most vocal on the issue this year.
Her speech about the "crisis of masculinity" in this country and the need to purge sexualised imagery from all public spaces in Britain didn't just moan about the problem, but came up with an answer.
"I think we need to clear our public spaces of worst elements of unrestrained markets - including addressing music videos that blare out at us, and our children," she said.
"The online bullying including problems around 'sexting' and 'slut-shaming'; the huge billboards that have very sexualised images of women that loom over our public spaces, and the sexualised figures of women in films that are now commonplace.
"For me the key, is putting parents back in control, and also putting open-minded family values back in our public spaces."
Will it happen? That's up to the party political leaders. They have to respond to the call to action. "This is a deep malaise in society, from which we must not shirk," concluded deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz.
There are few signs that Britain will collectively confront the issue, though. Doing so requires an acceptance of the premise that, as the headline of this piece suggested, we really are all responsible for child-on-child abuse.
You probably rejected that when you read it, didn't you? And have you really read anything here that will ultimately change your mind?
Breastfeeding is a good thing. Science says so. I know this because, as a parent-to-be, I had it drilled into me in an interminable three-hour session by the National Childcare Trust earlier this year.
My wife has made it clear I am forbidden from writing about anything remotely connected to the reproductive process. So I shall not tell you whether or not she is among the one in three mothers who still bother to breastfeed at six months, even though both the World Health Organisation and NHS recommend it's a good idea.
Part of the problem is the convenience of the alternative. Breastfeeding is tough. Not everyone is prepared to persevere through that tricky initial stage where the coming together of baby and breast seem more complicated than a mid-air refuelling operation. The temptation to switch to bottle-feeding, which is fairly cheap, is overwhelming.
There are other reasons, too. Mothers lead busy lives and it can often be inconvenient for them to breastfeed. They're not even allowed to consume vast amounts of alcohol. How on earth is that reasonable?
There is, I suspect, a still darker reason for the problem we have breastfeeding in this country. This is that breasts are, ultimately, a dual purpose sort of operation. They make milk. But they are also sexual - and in 21st century Britain, one of these functions is clearly trumping the other.
Such is the sexualised nature of our society that we simply can't cope with the idea that breasts might be used for something a bit more wholesome. We just don't get it. When, might you suppose, is the average age for weaning around the world? Six months? Eight months? One year?
It's four years old. And that's the average.
The moderate feeling of horror you may be experiencing as you read that - and the unthinkable idea that (if you happen to have breasts yourself) you might carry on feeding your own child that long - just show how much of a problem this mental roadblock is in Britain.
Breasts are hidden away in the west. This only reinforces our attitude towards them as being exclusively sexual. Just look at the outrage triggered by Seth Macfarlane's 'We Saw Your Boobs' song at this year's Oscars. It just about sums it up, doesn't it?
Now the government has come up with what it thinks is a bright idea: paying mothers to breastfeed. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?
Hmm… vouchers for breastfeeding. Hopefully the start of a trend where the government will pay me every time I go running.
But actually there may be something to it. Clever people have been finding ways to justify this sort of approach, and are actually making a decent go of it.
They want to extend the idea of 'nudge' - a horribly popular concept on Whitehall in which you nag, or trick, or persuade people into making healthy decisions. 'Nudge-plus', as the thinktank Demos calls it, could be used in all sorts of ways to save the taxpayer money.
Paying mothers up to £200 in shopping vouchers, the idea now being piloted by the coalition in deprived areas of South Yorkshire, fits right into this category. The pilot is intended to test whether the mothers view the cash as either a bribe or an incentive.
But is it necessary? Is this just too unsubtle, too crass an approach? Isn't it a shortcut to solving the much bigger cultural problem of how we view breasts (frequently, nudge nudge wink wink) in the west?
I found out the answer earlier this year, when visiting the home of another mother in our parenting group. I had no idea what she was doing until it was too late. My instinctive recoil in horror, which I seem to recall now happened in slow-motion and with an elongated Hollywood-style scream of anguish, just summed up why Britain has a breakdown at the idea of breastfeeding.
That's why the government's heavyhanded approach is a good idea. Even though I am the kind of person who has just written the above and will doubtless be mocked down the pub as a result, when it comes to real life I simply can't cope. The British switch in my brain is flicked and I turn into a stuttering, mumbling Hugh Grant of awkwardness.
This is the sort of gut response which needs fighting. So good luck to those 'incentivised' mothers up north. The decision to bribe them will make absolutely no difference to the bigger issue - but more babies will benefit. And that's got to be a good thing, right?
Ed Miliband's vision of a new mass membership organisation is nothing more than a dream. The reality, as the hard data from today's British Social Attitudes survey shows, is that the party system in Britain is dying a long, drawn-out, painful death.
The intense national squawking about the royal baby has turned us into a nation of flapping mother-in-laws. We seem to have forgotten that this little bundle of joy will make next to no difference to any of our day-to-day lives.
Sexual shenanigans are never far from the surface in Westminster. If at times it feels like our politicians just can't help but jump into bed with someone they shouldn't, a report out today suggests there's a reason for that.
Filibusters are usually doomed attempts at derailing reform by desperate politicians. Not so the wrecking speeches expected when the EU referendum bill arrives in the Commons next month: for once, it's the saboteurs who have the upper hand.
This week's row about the EU referendum is getting so convoluted it's starting to feel as if this is an aberration from the norm. It is not. Endemic rebelliousness on the Conservative backbenches is here to stay even if the Tories change their leader, experts have warned.