Despite what every popular (well unpopular really) image of politicians tells you, no one comes into this game to do harm. We may have diametrically opposed ideologies, we may represent completely different constituencies, we may have completely opposite notions of what it means to do good, but despite everything, politics is - in essence - a game of lofty ambitions.
However, this game is played with people's lives and livelihoods. Politics may be a battle of clashing ideologies, but it is also the daily grind of governance. It is the machinery of getting things done as well as the battle of what things get done.
Politics is a game based on the implementation of dreams, but it is also the ruthless pragmatism of electoral calculation. Of where you can take the public and where you must allow the public to take you.
It is with these competing factors in mind that Osborne laid his obvious benefits trap for Labour, announcing in the autumn statement that benefits (other than pensions which are guaranteed through the triple lock) will only rise by one per cent per year.
It put Labour in a difficult position. Those who think it doesn't are thinking only with their ideology, not their pragmatism. They are the ones who will tell you it is Labour's job to oppose Tory cuts. That isn't true - or at least it's not the whole truth. It is Labour's job to form a government and then implement policies that don't hit the poorest hardest and do encourage growth and increase employment.
It's a difficult choice because we know that this is the wrong thing to do. This rise of one per cent sounds like a rise to everyone who doesn't rely on benefits, but will feel like a cut for those who are. If the money you receive can only buy less stuff that's a cut. The rest is academic.
Those already suffering the most from what doesn't work about our society are being further punished for two reasons - because they make convenient political scapegoats and because it will drive a wedge between Labour and the voters. Osborne is being calculating - and relying on Labour to be idealistic.
Labour, it seems, have followed Osborne's script. Despite the obvious electoral calculus, they are right to do so.
Labour can and must be re-elected. But they cannot do so by offering a morality-free clean slate to voters. They must ask voters too to make choices. These are choices voters have made before and can make again.
Despite everything Labour did in government to seem punitive to those on benefits, despite everything done by James Purnell and Lord Freud, voters - including large numbers of Labour voters - have always believed us to be "softer" on those on benefits. I can't imagine how much more extreme we would have to be to change that, but to do so would involve kicking down with such ferocity that the trade-off between the electoral calculus and both the pragmatism of governing and our ideological repugnance at doing so would be far too unbalanced. It just wouldn't be worth it.
So I'm glad that Labour have accepted Osborne's challenge. We can't have a grown up, realistic conversation about welfare while both sides compete to out-macho each other. But by offering not just support for those on welfare, but different solutions to long-term worklessness, Labour may be playing into a stereotype, but they are at least doing so in a way that offers a pragmatic way forward.
If the next election hinges on perceptions of who can kick the weakest the hardest Labour won't win. But it won't and we can.