current affairs

Analysis: Clegg, the apology and the political risk

Written by Alex Veeneman

There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it, and for that I am sorry.” That is how Nick Clegg began the broadcast after not committing ful

There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it, and for that I am sorry.” That is how Nick Clegg began the broadcast after not committing fully to the pledge the Liberal Democrats made in its opposition to the rise in student fees, a pledge all of the party’s MPs made in the last general election. Whilst the apology has become a success in the iTunes chart through an autotuned release by the web site The Poke, it has raised questions into the political future of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Clegg said the party would learn from their mistakes. “When you’ve made a mistake you should apologise. But more importantly, most important of all, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. And that’s what we will do,” Clegg said according to a BBC report. “I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it.”

The responses to the apology came quickly. Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman said Clegg needed to take action. “This was not just the small print of his manifesto, this was Nick Clegg’s key election promise when he asked people to vote for his party. It is not good enough for him to just brush that promise aside,” Harman said according to the BBC. “Instead of crying crocodile tears he should vote with Labour to bring these tuition fees down. If Nick Clegg does not back his words with action he is just weak and spineless.”

The Education Minister David Laws told Radio 4’s Today programme according to the report that it was possible to keep the tuition fee increase pledge and scrap it if needed, but only if the Liberal Democrats had been governing on their own.

Yet, there had been however some skepticism of the pledge, especially from the Business Secretary Vince Cable. Cable told the BBC that voters had been angry about the rise, but maintained the policy was being evaluated. “I was sceptical about the pledge but we agreed collectively to do it and I take my share of the responsibility,” Cable said. “I signed the pledge on the basis that had we been in government on our own, which was the commitment, we would have put through that policy and we would have done so. It was an unwise commitment to have made and we regret that and that was the basis of the apology.”

As the Lib Dem party conference comes to a conclusion in Brighton, the party’s competency with voters stands at a question. Many students had backed the proposal not to increase tuition fees, at a time where many were applying for university spots across the UK.

Whether Clegg and the Lib Dems can prove to voters that the party can still be trusted is up in the air, even indeed if Clegg can still be trusted as leader. He has the backing of some Conservatives, notably Boris Johnson, writing in his Telegraph column that the party should be grateful to Clegg considering their position in government.

In the end, its down to the voters in the next general election of who they want their MP to be, and if the voters trust Clegg enough after this misstep.

Do you think Nick Clegg should remain leader of the Liberal Democrats? How much do you think the apology will effect their perception with voters? Share your thoughts below.