Vince Cable has had the luck as a politician to see some of his enemies spontaneously combust. Bob Diamond. Rupert Murdoch. Er … Nick Clegg?
Perish the thought, of course. As the two men – so inseparable you wondered whether either was prepared to let the other out of his sight – toured the Ricardo hi-tech plant in Shoreham-by-Sea, Clegg seemed the chattier, Cable the more subdued.
We searched, largely in vain, for a twitch of mutually hostile body language. Asked, twice, about Boris Johnson's mischief-making call for the Lib Dem leader to be preserved for the nation, Clegg described the London Mayor as the "nation's greatest celebrity politician".
Could this have been a subtle dig at Vince – Boris's main rival for this dubious title?
Who can tell? Certainly Cable eschewed overt Borisian self-aggrandisement. Instead, his speech showed distinct signs of having it both ways. In the Government but not wholly of it. In particular, he indulged in a bout of only somewhat circumspect – and from the floor, well applauded – Tory-bashing.
His best and unscripted joke, "Not now, Ed", came as he seemed to reach for his mobile phone after an unrepentant reference to his SMS flirtation with the Labour leader.Reuse content