The Deputy Prime Minister has been initiated to one of the joys of Government usually reserved for Prime Ministers: the airplane 'chat' that goes wrong. He's in Mexico to avoid appearing at the launch of Ed Miliband's Yes to AV campaign to promote British trade and has taken a number of my Lobby colleagues with him. And as is the way with these trips, he was persuaded to wander back to steerage for an informal natter with the journalists who have paid vast sums to tag along. This is a long-established ritual which Prime Ministers learn to loathe. It usually always goes wrong, unless, like Tony Blair, the PM becomes adept at chatting about nothing at all. I won't bore you with the details of how these things work, but there's usually an understanding that the conversation is off the record, which lasts until the moment the victim leader says something interesting, when the deal frays, and negotiations ensue with his advisers about what bits might be used. I remember a moment half-way into a 19 hour flight from Brussels to Melbourne with Mr Tony when he let slip that he had a date in mind for his departure: there was a moment's stunned silence as the enormity of it sunk in. We then spent the rest of the flight trying to work out how get away with breaking the terms of the deal. It was on that trip that the excellent David Hill memorably shouted at us "I can't work with you, you are all f****** mad!"
Mr Clegg is new to all this, and it may well be that he intended to hole the Government's nuclear plans below the heavy water line. Some might say that he was merely pointing out the obvious: Fukushima is bound to have a damaging impact on the financing plans for the new wave of nuclear plants in Britain. But from this side of the Atlantic he appears to have pre-empted the outcome of the safety review, which is bad form, And by declaring as a certainty that costs will have to rise, he can be accused of talking up the price of nuclear. As all evidence points to the necessity of expanding nuclear if we want the lights to stay on as David Cameron made clear just days ago Mr Clegg is surely rowing against Government policy. Which, as I say, may suit him. Like his sally in favour of more taxes on wealth on Monday, he may be trying to bolster his standing with Lib Dem voters. Is he acting in the national interest, Lib Dem interest, or his own interest I wonder?