Nick Clegg: Sorry no longer the hardest word


It is, they say, the hardest word. Nevertheless, after more than two years of resisting, Nick Clegg has decided that it is time he said it, said it clearly and said it directly.

In a party political broadcast filmed at his home the Liberal Democrat leader speaks directly to camera and with real intensity about a decision which he believes has become a weight around his and his party's ankles - the decision to break his word by first signing, then breaking a pledge to vote against increases in student tuition fees.

"There's no easy way to say this: We made a pledge, we didn't stick to it - and for that I am sorry. 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.

"I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it"

The Lib Dem leader says that it was "a mistake" to make a pledge that couldn't be delivered when there was no money to pay for it and when his party was only likely to be in power in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives - both of whom were committed to increase tuition fees.

He is equally clear, though, that he is not apologising for the policy he backed in government which, he believes, will come to be seen as fair.

This is quite a contrast to what he said to me in an interview in December 2010.

"To govern is to choose particularly when there is not very much money and we have chosen and I am not going to apologise for this for one minute."

This broadcast has been released a few days before the start of his party's annual conference. Nick Clegg knows that it will provoke disbelief, anger and ridicule from many but hopes it will start to enable him to win back trust from some of those who once believed in him.

I'm told that many close to Nick Clegg reminded him of the old dictum - never apologise, never explain - but he decided that saying sorry was his best hope of persuading voters to listen to the "right things" his party stands for instead of only remembering what he now acknowledges was a mistake.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    What a silly little man. Who knows what to believe now. Time to go Clegg, you fool nobody anymore

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Sorry Mr Clegg, as soon as a politician has lost trust, it’s game over.
    You said one thing and did the opposite.
    What confidence do we have that you are not just another ‘do as I say, not as I do’ class of politician?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Is there any way to stop the formation of a coalition (aside from a majority vote obviously). I get incensed when I hear Nick Clegg say that the coalition is what people voted for. It most certainly is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Doesn't the new fees scheme cost *more* in the short term because the universities charging £9,000 are getting more money than the old HEFCE grants per student? The real cost of the scheme IMO is that the government have essentially privatised the industry whilst reducing possible student numbers, and the ability of Universities to export their services (ie the overseas student caps).

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I hate to be cynical but surely Clegg has realised he is a liability to his party and is floundering around looking for ways in which to ingratiate himself back into his party's good books. A person who can jettison his principles in exchange for a grubby taste of power is not to be trusted. I am sure his come-uppance will be delivered by those whom he has deceived, the British public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Re 39
    it was also a "foolish" gesture

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Most people think Clegg has zero credibility. Is it possible to have less than zero?.There's no money left cos nasty Labour spent it all. BUT hold on, we've suddenly found £10 billion for the IMF,no problems giving a 5% tax cut to our rich friends,no urgency to chase £billions lost in tax evasion,oh and billions extra debt to pay for the 100,000's we threw on to the dole!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Oh well, that's alright then Mr Clegg - think no more of it.

    Because I'm sure the British electorate will think no more of you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    He hasn't apologised for anything. He says he is "sorry" for promising to vote against a fee increase but says it was the right thing to do - which makes his point moot

    If he was sorry he would point out that this government:

    has no money for education

    but plenty of money for warfare in the middle east

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Clegg - typical political hypocrite, not trustworthy, completely false individual, background mainly political type work, no guilt about employing political fraudsters. Hopefully his time in the elected legislature is about to come to an end. Only drawback is that his buddy DC will either 'elevate' him to the Lords or find some lucrative work in the European beaurocracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    how dare clegg say he made a mistake. he lied to get votes simple. and when he says the new fees system is fairer its another lie. how can paying £27,000 be fairer than paying back £9,000 regardless of the time differential. clegg just get out of politics,please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Parallel World @25
    "who's left"

    How about "us"?

    Alone, no 'leader' or party ever was - ever will be - 'up to it', the task of 'managing' their own and others' deep conflicts of interest, not in 'the quiet of opposition', nor even with 'full Civil Service assistance' when 'in government'

    With Equal Democracy, every conscience involved, free to 'fail' but also free to try, to be the best we can

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    My constituency MP is Simon Hughes. A decent man who I voted for in several elections, as I did last time. I am a left of centre type and voted Libdem tactically as the anti-Tory option. Imagine my HORROR when I eventually realised that my vote was to be used fraudulently to propel a new Tory Aristocracy into power. It was a VILE BETRAYAL. I have told Simon that I will NEVER vote Libdem again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Do the honourable thing Nick


  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It was a rash and follish gesture.
    Considering the facts not the politics, as a recipient of the student grant in the 70's I have very mixed feelings about tuition fees - however the economics of many more students going to university dictates some tuition fee is necessary, although I do think the fees are exorbitant for many subjects considering the limited lectures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Hopefully the electorit and media will learn something from this. It's easy to make promises when you don't have to deliver them.
    Next election, maybe we can have some proper in depth analysis of manifesto's, rather than focusing on a gaff with micrphones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Rather than make a lame apology for something he didn't do, perhaps he should try apologising for all the shameful things he and his colleagues have done. Like pushing through disgraceful, Welfare, Education and health 'reforms' that are an Insult to the Liberal Tradition. Oh, and stop trying to blame Labour for, as the truth about how the debt has been over egged slowly emerges, his actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Was the apology sincere, any trace it was political expediency or inauthentic ..

    I guess he cares..

    I didn`t vote for him. so it`s not really relevant to me..

    Not sure it will save him from the depends how it`s percieved, I suspect most commentators will be cynical, how those who voted for him will react ? Same vein I think..Dunno

    Most are forgiving of a genuine apology

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    One of the biggest problems this country faces is the difference between political ambitions and harsh reality. Have none of those who are criticising ever made a commitment and then found out later it was impossible to deliver? Ever had a child say "But you promised me...."??

    The fundamental problem is that Whitehall is a concealed world - even to the government in office! Fix required!


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