'Jim Naughtie: Is the Trident upgrade untouchable?
David Cameron: We do need an independent nuclear deterrent…
JN: Is that a yes?
DC: Yes. Basically I was going to give you a longer and fuller answer but the short answer is yes… To me and the Coalition government, yes, Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent is being replaced.'
First, what timeframe is the PM operating along? The natural assumption is that he’s referring to this Parliament. But if he simply means that Trident is being replaced at some ill-defined point in the future, then this might still chime with reports that the upgrade is being delayed until after the 2015 election.
And, then, what does Cameron mean by "to me and the coalition government"? After all, the coalition agreement made provisions for the Lib Dems to "make the case for alternatives" to a like-for-like Trident replacement. Is the PM suggesting that Nick Clegg & Co. have instead come around to the Tories' point-of-view? Or could he be saying that the Tories’ point-of-view will prevail regardless of any opposition from the yellow corner?
Questions, questions, questions, then. And, until the one-two punch of the spending review and the strategic defence review, I doubt we will have any definitive answers. In the meantime, this intervention from Cameron might just unnerve a few Lib Dems who regard Trident as a crucial "mother-in-law test" for the coalition.