By Ray Fleming

WHEN I first saw the news that Nick Clegg was taking a long weekend break in Switzerland it seemed so unlikely that I checked four different sources before writing yesterday's Viewpoint about the Deputy Prime Minister's very laid-back attitude at a time of international crisis. There are, of course, more important matters currently afoot than Mr Clegg's curious behaviour; still, he is Deputy Prime Minister and Britain is entitled to know what that title actually means and who is really in charge in Downing Street when David Cameron is away. Clearly it is not Nick Clegg because he was going to be away too and, in any case, said he had “forgotten” that he was in charge. There have been previous examples of his semi-detached attitude to his job and it is important to know why the person who would have awesome responsibilities if Mr Cameron were seriously indisposed behaves in such an irresponsible way.

My guess is that in this case Mr Clegg was not plugged into the circle of ministers and officials dealing with the Middle East situation in London and maintaining direct communication with the prime minister and that he decided to show that if he wasn't needed he wouldn't change his holiday plans. Petty, perhaps, but quite possible. Mr Cameron ordered him back to London for yesterday's meeting of the National Security Council and will doubtless want a private chat with him in due course.