So was Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband's meeting in Sheffield more Brief Encounter or Love Story?

Their chance meeting at the city's railway station will be pored over by Westminster Kremlinologists

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It could be read as the encounter that opened formal Coalition talks between Labour and the Liberal Democrats – or one that exposed a deep rift between their party leaders.

In Yorkshire on Friday, Ed Miliband held the briefest of talks with Nick Clegg – a revelation that will be pored over by Westminster Kremlinologists. The Labour leader was at Sheffield railway station, when he saw the Deputy Prime Minister, and decided to go and say hello. However, reports have been circulating for weeks that Labour wants to “decapitate” the Lib Dems by ousting Mr Clegg from his Westminster seat on 7 May. As he bounded up to the Lib Dem leader, Mr Miliband said: “I thought it would be rude not to say, ‘Hi’.”

“I think you’ve been rude enough about me already,” was the Deputy Prime Minister’s apparently abrupt response.

However, sources said Mr Clegg was in fact smiling as he said it and the exchange was good-natured, although one Miliband aide claimed the Deputy PM was at a cashpoint, adding: “We assume he was trying to fund the Lib Dems’ uncosted spending commitments.” But a Clegg aide insisted they were outside Marks & Spencer, saying: “I guess Labour changed the story because Miliband is the one who likes to be associated with Marx.”

There is not much warmth between the two men, which suggests there may indeed have been some rancour behind the jollity. Mr Clegg was returning to his constituency, Sheffield Hallam, while Mr Miliband was in the city to give a speech.