Just what are we to make of Gordon Brown?
To his supporters - and he has a few, including, bizarrely, the Daily Mail - he is the Iron Chancellor, whose prolonged love affair with Prudence has ushered in a golden age for the British economy.
His opponents - who are many - point out that the statistics that underpin the Chancellor's claim that he is abiding by his "golden rule" of borrowing only to invest are built on shifting sands.
Brown's definition of the phrase "economic cycle" is infinitely elastic and his estimate of the Treasury's tax take as a proportion of GDP depends on how you measure GDP, they say.
Not, as he does, by artificially boosting the size of the economy by throwing in VAT receipts and subsidies for luck, they add.
Listening to last week's Budget statement left this correspondent somewhat dazed, bewildered and reach-ing for the Paracetamol.
Any Budget speech in the sound-bite age is only ever going to be a series of headlines spun to the Govern-ment's best advantage.
But Brown gives the phrase "bullet points" a whole new meaning by spraying out economic data with machine-gun rapidity and ferocity.
You may have a feeling that something isn't quite as he describes it, but before you have time to say "yes . . . but" he's switched aim and is mowing down a whole new set of targets.
The devil's in the detail, those sheafs of Treasury documents released the minute the Chancellor sits down certainly contain a devilish amount of detail.
So it's only when the economic and financial mavens have combed through the documents that state in deliberately obscurantist language what is really going on that the Budget speech starts to unravel. Billions more thrown at education? Fine. Until those who work at the educational coalface point out that much of the extra money will be absorbed by bureaucracy.
Just as it has in the NHS - and we heard nothing about that from chancellor Brown last Wednesday.
Nor about the £50 billion black hole he's blown in the nation's pension funds since he scrapped tax relief on
dividend income in 1997. We did learn, however, that he plans deluging the gilt market with new issues at a time when yields are desperately low and adding to the pension tragedy.
Whatever you think of Gordon Brown, one thing's certain - thing's are never what they seem. One newspaper columnist yesterday compared him to Candide, the Voltaire character who clings to the belief that all's for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
That same newspaper said: "If Brown continues to treat taxpayers and business like simpletons, his dream of a long tenure at No 10 will be cut short . . ."
Couldn't have put it better myself.