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, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 234.


    So, Miliband's pledge on fees, which he pretends helps poorer students, when it actually doesn't, and which he pretends doesn't help higher earning graduates, when it actually does, you call a "routine policy commitment".


    What I call it (and what I call your peculiar efforts to astroturf over it, too) is deception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    jr 232

    Well no, not really.

    We need to distinguish a routine policy commitment (e.g. Labour's to cap student fees) from the Nick Clegg 'pledge' type nonsense.

    So, okay, we can call all policy commitments 'pledges' - fine - but then we have to come up with a new (and slightly stronger) name for what we were previously calling a pledge (e.g. the Clegg one).

    A vow, say?

    Or an oath?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.


    Oh I see, Miliband's "pledge" over student fees is just an error by the BBC.

    So the fact that the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror, the New Statesman, just to name a few, also called it a pledge - also the Beeb's fault?

    No, sagamix. Quit the denials. It's a pledge. Will they drop it before the election? Do I hear Miliband crafting an early apology even now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    If it's such a fine idea for graduates to pay for universities why are we not all subject to the additional tax?

    This would include Blair, Brown, Straw, Dave, Gideon, Boris, Cleggy, Laws, etc.

    Personally I think Branson, Sugar and Prescott should also contribute, as they are part of the nation that benefit from those who work hard to achieve in the education system and their working life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.


    We already know Labour and the truth are mutually exclusive. Look at Lisbon. In the 2005 manifesto, binned by Broon....

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Clegg is one of those "career politicians" who has never had a proper job, ie school, university, political researcher = MP.
    What really is incredible is the level he is now at....Deputy Prime Minister!
    The mind boggles at the state of UK politics, that allows such a level of incompetence to rise to such high political office.
    What little remaining credibility Clegg had, has now vanished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    clegg, you are a joke and a laughing stock. you lied to gain votes,failed to deliver and now its come back to bite you on the b-m. i hope you and your pathetic excuse of a party get absolutely hammered at the next election. a nodding dog springs to mind !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    jrp 223

    That's just sloppy BBC language, JR. Shouldn't happen, them being our national broadcaster and all, but from time to time it does.

    No, what we're talking about here - since it's the blog topic - is 'pledge' in the Nick Clegg 'con the student (and their parents) vote' sense of the word.

    The thing that, at least according to him, he's now very sorry about doing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Now the LibDem leadership is in aplogy mode perhaps they could get Rodney Berman, former LD leader of Cardiff County Council, to apologise for his disgracefully inept performance which included trying to build a new school (not required) on a much valued and heavily utilised playing field. And he had the nerve to blame Westminster politics for his defenestration. No matey it's your own fault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Nick Clegg
    "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"

    Sorry Nick, Breaking a Promise is not a mistake - it is a deplorable breach of faith and trust and if you don't get that it just shows the type of person you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Nick, use your remaining time in power wisely. Accept that the country views the LD's as a busted flush and will return to single party government at the next opportunity. Make soothing sounds to various global companies and to Euro government and, who knows, when you're removed by your party (quite likely) or the country (now a given) you'll be able to keep your gravy train ticket updated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    sagamix 218

    "We shouldn't make too much of Labour plans to cut tuition fees. It's not a 'pledge'"

    On the other hand, according to the BBC:

    "Tuition fees: Labour pledges maximum cap of £6,000" -

    A pledge, is a pledge, is a pledge... is an apology in the making (as we have seen already).

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    He could have said sorry for breaking the pledge not to increase VAT at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    TWO parties have pledged not to increase tuition fees and then tripled them. The other party was LABOUR who in Government raised them from £1000 to £3000 in breach of their pledge. Of course we have all forgiven them for this and the Iraq war, ID cards at £5 billion and their economic failures etc etc etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Sorry with strings attached, the hope to gain therefrom.
    Sorry from the heart without strings attached, the hope to be forgiven.
    Sorry here is the former sort.
    But it comes to us with Nick's commitment - never again to make a promise that he may not be able to keep...
    Is it ever quiet all of a sudden!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    I accept his apology, even though it is for conceited reasons.

    I too learned from this, like Nick, and as a result I pledge never to vote for the LibDems ever again.

    I hope Nick can accept my sincere apology too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    We shouldn't make too much of Labour plans to cut tuition fees. It's not a 'pledge' - haven't seen Miliband or Balls waving things around on YouTube or signing student placards, have we?

    No, all it is is an aspiration. It may at some point develop into a statement of intent, then a common-or-garden promise ... even eventually harden into a commitment ... but it's never going to be a pledge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    This slimey snake is simply trying to save his skin, the fake doe eyed look of shame in his home movie is breathtaking.
    Perhaps he has come to the realisation that he won't get a seat in the lords and the the EU gravy train won't have him back when he is dumped on his arse after the next election.
    Perhaps for the first time in his life he will have to get a real job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Just shows that with no prospect of being power individually, the LibDems could make up populist policies that they never expected they had to deliver. Then in power they were found wanting on those promises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    If you are wondering, Mr Clegg, what the nation is thinking about your apology, just wait till the next election.


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