As we all know, the annual Budget has one main purpose: to allow chancellors of the exchequer to show how clever they are by plucking rabbits out of their hats; like the big cuts in income tax revealed by Nigel Lawson in 1987.

But George Osborne's sixth budget was remarkably rabbit-free. There's little magic in abolishing the annual paper tax return. The increase in the personal allowance of income tax to £11,000 in two years time is not going to have them dancing in the streets of Danny Alexander's Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

Even the pay-off line fell flat. "The comeback country" doesn't exactly sing. It sounded to me too much like an echo of Brokeback Mountain or one of those cigarette adverts with a dying cowboy.

And we've heard so many chancellors over the year announce that Britain "is walking tall again" that Mr Osborne would have had to issue every citizen with a pair of high heels before they'd believe it.

There were lots of little insignificant measures, targeted at specific groups of voters, like the Help to Buy ISA in which the government adds £50 for every £200 that first time buyers save for a deposit. Not that many first time buyers can actually afford to buy a house anymore.

There is a one thousand pounds tax-free allowance on savings interest for marginal rate taxpayers. But most people don't have much in savings and those who do earn practically no interest on them thanks to the Bank of England's near-zero base-rate policy.

Struggling pundits on the BBC's Budget 2015 programme tried to generate some enthusiasm for the Chancellor's latest gift to the greys: allowing pensioners to cash in their annuities for a lump sum without having to pay the 55 per cent tax. The imagery of senior citizens driving around in Lamborghinis was given another outing.

But what Mr Osborne didn't say was that these pension pots will still be taxed. And most people will be dismayed to find how little their pensions have accrued over the years because of the excessive charges the pensions industry has been allowed to levy.

General practitioners may be dismayed at the lifetime pension allowance being reduced again from £1.25 million to £1m. Doctors earn so much nowadays that most have been piling up pension savings above that level and many are saying they'll retire early because there's no point in working on.

Other diminutive furry animals were produced to give the tabloids something for their front pages: a penny off a pint; petrol duty frozen; the transferable tax allowance for married couples to rise by £1000; some cash from bank fines going to regimental charities; and a new church roof fund. But this really was small beer.

There were some hard-to-understand tax changes supposedly designed to cut avoidance by big companies such as Google, though they weren't named. However, one suspects that those terribly clever people in the computer business will have seen them coming and have adjusted their accounting practices accordingly.

Untypically, some of the more striking changes applied to Scotland. The £1.3 billion cut in taxation on North Sea oil and gas is significant, though the SNP insisted that this only takes the industry back to where it was in 2011 when the Chancellor launched his destructive "tax grab". The Scotch whisky industry was jubilant at a two per cent cut in duty, and there were regeneration city deals offered for Aberdeen and Inverness.

But this is hardly the stuff of budget legend. Really, this seemed to be a speech that tried not to be too interesting; that did its best not to offend anyone or be too clever by half. Everyone remembers George Osborne's 2012 "omnishambles" budget with its pasty taxes and the controversy over cutting taxes on the rich.

This was a Tory chancellor desperately trying not to be too Tory. The Budget was designed to rob Labour of "nasty party" election headlines.

The borrowing figures were carefully massaged so that Ed Miliband could no longer make his claim that the Tories were cutting the public sector "back to the 1930s". Spending levels will only return to the levels they were in 2000.

We were told that Labour's claim that working people are £1,600 worse off as a result of five years of Tory rule was nonsense. In fact, average families are £900 better off. So there you are. What are you complaining about?

Remarkably, everything Labour has been saying about the economy turns out to be wrong, according to Mr Osborne's heroic arithmetic. Growth is up, borrowing is down, the national debt is to be paid off. The top one per cent are paying more tax than ever.

Inequality is down, child poverty is down, and so are youth unemployment and pensioner poverty. The Chancellor even declared that the gender pay gap is narrower than ever, which our friends in Women for Independence might find it hard to believe.

"Opportunity is up", he went on, insisting that apprenticeships have doubled, university applications from poorer families are up, mental health services are improving. The National Minimum Wage is to rise to £8 by the end of the decade (another Labour pledge stolen).

Forget all the talk about people on zero-hour contracts having to resort to food banks. Those headlines about the housing crisis, welfare cuts, benefit sanctions, low pay and suchlike: all got up by Ed Miliband with his two kitchens and his "deed of variation" tax break - a low blow that. The Chancellor said he will review Mr Miliband's particular housing tax relief in the general drive to end tax avoidance.

Well, he's certainly made it more difficult for the Labour leader to pick out easy targets in the election campaign; or, indeed, Nicola Sturgeon. The Finance Secretary, John Swinney, was visibly bereft of things to be indignant about.

The fact is that all the parties, apart possibly from the Greens, subscribe in broad terms to deficit reduction - only they have very different timescales and different priorities

The irony is that, for all his talk in 2010 of the "Geddes Axe" and the deepest cuts since the 1920s, George Osborne has been singularly unsuccessful so far in actually cutting the UK debt pile, which continues to rise inexorably.

Indeed, one figure that was curiously absent from the Budget speech was that this Conservative Chancellor has borrowed more in the past five years than Labour did in the previous 13.

Mr Osborne is very good at talking tough on spending in theory while being rather more benign in practice, which is a good thing. The Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed in its report that growth would have been much lower had the more radical axe been swung back in 2010.

Like all good politicians, Mr Osborne has sought to turn missing his targets into a measure of success. It's what they do. Budgets are always a confidence trick. The task he has set himself is to persuade the British voters that, all evidence to the contrary, things really are getting better.

He wants us to think that this is a responsible government that believes in fair treatment and sound finances, and is not the kick-the-poor party of plutocrats that Labour tries to portray it as.

In 50 days we'll know whether or not the comeback Chancellor has succeeded.