By Ray Fleming

I S Nick Clegg Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, or not? If he is, why is he on holiday in France while Mr Cameron is relaxing in Italy and George Osborne is in Los Angeles?

If he is not, why does he have the title and the privileges that go with it?
It is not so long ago that he expressed surprise at criticism of a long weekend he took in Switzerland while Mr Cameron was travelling.
Yesterday, as global financial institutions were fearing the worst, William Hague emerged as officer in charge in Whitehall and insisted that “the government is fully functional”.

How can it be when the prime minister and his chancellor of the exchequer are at opposite ends of the world?
Much is made these days of the way in which modern communications technology make it possible for people to remain in touch as easily as if they are just across the road.

Technically this may be true and it may suffice for routine business but it cannot be true in a developing crisis when the key figures need to be able to meet face-to-face across a table and look each other in the eye and draw immediately on the range of advice available on the spot.

Mr Hague also pointed out that “We're not in the firing line.” Let's hope he's right about that.

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