The other day I chanced on a TV interview where Andrew Marr was "grilling" Nick Clegg about the economy. I didn't take much notice of the interview content because professional liars are not one of my enthusiasms, but I'm sure I saw a hint of defeat in Clegg's demeanour.
Of course the guy is bound to land on his feet whatever happens to the Lib Dems. An EU sinecure is probably lined up somewhere in the background, but I think he knows the game is up as Lib Dem leader and I think he knows he has failed.
Perhaps he doesn't care and he'll move on without a backward glance and all I saw was a momentary hint of fatigue, lack of interest or simply lack of inspiration. After all, if he knows the game is over then his mind will be elsewhere.
Yet ambitious people such as Clegg need to believe they have succeeded, at least in their own terms. Clegg didn't strike me as someone who had that belief running full bore. He may have it now, because the mood may have evaporated, but I don't think he had it during that interview.
Such people have the hide of a rhinoceros and ludicrously rich supplies of self-belief so it isn't easy to read these things from their behaviour. Too often we have to ignore their potential human qualities because that is the only safe assumption. Too often the public persona of a modern politician doesn't have any significant human qualities anyway.
So maybe Clegg gave a slight hint of his private persona or maybe it was an act or maybe lack of genuine interest in the debate. One of many absurdities of politics is that we cannot really tell the difference.
Our leaders don't even do PR-puppet particularly well.