In reality, it is a million miles off that goal to the extent that one wonders if it is even realistic.
Today’s red ink flows like this: Borrowing hit £25.6 billion in April, nearly £12 billion more than for the same month last year.
That was mostly the costs of benefits and of helping families deal with energy related inflation. The government had to spend this money. It could have jiggled things around a bit differently, but the amounts would have been roughly the same.
Interest payable on the national debt was £9.8 billion in April alone.
There’s a long way to get from there to a supposedly balanced budget and some pre-election sweeteners to jaded voters.
The Chancellor today insists that is still his plan, however reality looks.
Maybe it is time to change the debate here and accept that government debt is only going one way – up.
A more imaginative opposition could embrace the debt and admit it isn’t likely to fall any time soon even if it gets elected.
It could say that the interest payments on the debt mostly come back to us one way or the other. And that the point of the spending is to improve our children’s inheritance, rather than burden them with liabilities.
The government runs a deficit to create a surplus elsewhere – with us, it could add.
Then we could have an honest conversation at least about why we run deficits, which we nearly always do, and why they are sometimes cheaper than the alternative, which is to let everything collapse.
If you think debts are expensive, try an economic depression