Apologies among politicians are rare. But following Nick Clegg’s recent apology have students finally forgiven him for his broken pledge over tuition fees, or was the apology not enough?
When Nick Clegg pledged that he would not vote in favour of increasing tuition fees to the National Union of Students, before the last election, he became something of a celebrity among students. But after forming a coalition with the Conservative Party at the 2010 election, he ignored this pledge, instead voting to increase the cap on fees to £9,000, drastically damaging his popularity among the electorate. Two years later Nick Clegg has come forward to apologise, actually admitting to his wrong-doing. Clegg’s choice to stand up and apologise took courage and will have earned him back some of the respect he lost two years ago. But how should we interpret this apology?
When we compare Clegg to other politicians, he suddenly starts looking relatively good. Take Tony Blair for instance, who led our country through the Iraq War. The Iraq War cost 179 British lives, yet it still took two official enquiries to finally force an apology out of Blair in 2011. Compare Clegg’s broken pledge to this and the tuition fee issue significantly pales in comparison. Yet Clegg has voluntarily stood up of his own accord, admitted to his fault and acknowledged that he let down many of the electorate.
But at the end of the day Nick Clegg is a politician and politics is his career: he is apologising to gain back lost support and is attempting to repair the broken trust between the public and the Liberal Democrat party. So is his apology heartfelt and genuine? Or is Clegg apologising simply because the Liberal Democrat party conference, currently being held in Brighton, was looming when he made the apology on Wednesday 19th September?
Clegg knows that doubts may be cast over his leadership at the conference, which runs from the 22nd-26th September and the issue of the tuition fees is largely the cause of this. While it is clear now that Clegg’s pledge could not be trusted, can his apology also be taken at face value or not? It is interesting that Clegg chose to apologise three days before the 2012 Liberal Democrat conference, instead of two years ago when he broke his pledge. It is also interesting that he is not apologising for breaking his pledge, instead for making that promise in the first place.
We made a pledge. We didn’t stick to it. And for that I am sorry.Nick CleggDeputy Prime Minister
Regardless of Clegg’s reasons for apologising for his previous actions, the fact of the matter is that he has stood up and acknowledged his mistake. Despite the fact that an apology will not be enough for some students, and that many feel his apology is misdirected, at least Clegg has attempted to repair the damage his actions caused two years ago. I cannot decide myself what to make of the apology: should Clegg be forgiven? Should he even be apologising in the first place, seeing as he was thrust into a coalition as opposed to leading a majority government? But at the end of the day whatever you or I think of his apology, it was a nice thing to do. Plus we got a funny video out of it.
But for those students who are currently enjoying their Freshers week at the University of Southampton and trying not to think about the £9,000 fee they will be paying for their education; was Clegg’s apology enough for you?