Unlike Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg emerged largely unscathed from his appearance on The World At One, but a notable moment came when he was asked about the forthcoming Spending Review, submissions for which ended today.
Vince Cable recently criticised the coalition's decision to ring-fence spending on the NHS, schools and international development, warning that it had led to "a very unbalanced approach to public spending". He suggested that cuts should be considered in all of these areas after 2015 in order to reduce pressure on "the army, police, local government and skills".
But Clegg made it clear that he didn't share the Business Secretary's scepticism of ring-fencing. He said:
If you are Vince Cable and you're in a department that doesn't have that ring-fence, and Philip Hammond and others have made it quite clear directly that they're marshalling their arguments about why their department needs to be shielded from savings and others should bear the...that's the nature of this sort of Whitehall argy bargy that you get at this stage.
Having said that, I fundamentally, I don't think Vince was saying this, but I am absolutely convinced that at a difficult time like this, protecting our NHS spending, protecting spending on schools and honouring our international obligations to developing countries around the world was a big decision, was a controversial decision but I think was the right one to take.
In response, it's worth noting that that the Deputy PM took a very different line during the 2010 election when he declared:
We’re not entering into this dutch auction about ring-fencing. Good outcomes aren’t determined by drawing a redline around government departmental budgets.
Unlike the Conservatives, who pledged to protect spending on the NHS and international development, the Lib Dems argued that no department should be spared from austerity, with Cable telling the party's 2010 spring conference: "There can be no ring-fencing if we are serious about getting the public finances back on track". As party leader, Clegg supported this approach.
Once installed as Deputy Prime Minister, it appears that he had a change of heart. But if so, he should at least have the decency to admit as much.