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Today DPM Nick Clegg has released an apology over breaking his party's pledge to oppose any rise in tuition fees. There's the serious version:



And then there's this utterly hilarious autotuned remix that's been done of it set to music:



Firstly, just to get it out of the way, the remix has had me in tears laughing and I think it's brilliant! Also, Nick Clegg has been quite a good sport by allowing it to be released as a single on iTunes, as long as the proceeds go to a Sheffield children's charity. The cynic in me half wants to say he only agreed to it to try and get people to like him again, but I honestly think he agreed to it because does actually have a sense of humour and is quite a nice guy. I genuinely don't think he deserves all the hate that he's getting, and this is actually what I wanted to post about.

I was one of the people who was initially angry with Nick Clegg when he broke his pledge not to raise tuition fees by introducing a bill in Parliament that would raise the cap to £9000 per year in November 2010. I thought by breaking that pledge he'd destroyed his integrity and credibility, and even though I could understand his reasons for it, I still didn't think it was justified. However, I'm also saying this as someone who met him on the day the bill was announced, within thirty minutes of him appearing at the despatch box, no less, and there was no way he was happy about it. He even said to me he wasn't happy about it in that many words, and even though again it is tempting to be cynical, I believed him. The reason being, he never publically admitted to anyone else that he wasn't happy about raising fees. He said he wasn't happy about signing the pledge, repeatedly said he had to compromise with the Tories because the Lib Dems made up such a small fraction of the government, but he never said he wasn't happy about actually raising fees. At the time, that would have been a bad political move because people were so sceptical about the future of the coalition anyway and the media were jumping on anything they could get that suggested there might be "cracks" in the coalition, but he said it to me one-on-one when there were no cameras about, which is why I think he was being honest and wasn't even saying it to try and improve his popularity again.

Now, two years later, he's apologised. I honestly think it came far too late, but better late than not at all. Many politicians would never admit they were wrong. I think Clegg was irresponsible for signing that pledge when he didn't for sure he could keep it, and only signed it because he never expected to get into government or have any kind of real power. Although I can understand he was in a very difficult situation when it came to making that decision when in government, it was his own fault for putting himself there and I don't think it excuses what he did. This apology should've come sooner and he absolutely should've done more to get a better deal from the Tories at the time if he truly regretted what he was doing, but that said, I still believe him. I absolutely buy that this apology is genuine, because I talked to him at the time and I got a very, very strong sense that he was unhappy about doing what he did. Not saying I forgive him, because I still don't think he won as good a compromise with the Tories as he could have done if he'd made a greater effort, but I think he is sorry about what happened, and not just because of the impact it's had on his popularity. My feelings towards Nick Clegg are that he is a generally decent guy, if a lousy politician, who made promises he didn't know if he could keep and didn't know how to fight for them when it came down to it. He was too much of an idealist and too irresponsible, which aren't good things for a politician to be, but I think it was brave of him to actually apologise even when it's two years in the past by now.

I can't say it has entirely restored my faith in the party, because I held out with them for a very long time and supported them when nobody else did, and repeatedly saw them cave in to Tory demands when they could have held their ground a little more, but I agree with what Nick Clegg said in the video about learning from mistakes. If he demonstrates that he has actually done this and never makes pledges that irresponsible again, then I might be prepared to accept that this party has actually learned something from being in government. If that's the case, I'll feel more inclined to believe they'll keep their promises in future because they won't make the same mistake twice. But I suppose that remains to be seen. (Not that I imagine I will be seeing it again for a very long time...)

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indigoneutrino

July 2013

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