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Nick Clegg apologises for tuition fees pledge
A contrite Nick Clegg drew both scorn and applause on Wednesday when he apologised for promising at the last election to oppose any increase in tuition fees, saying: "We made a pledge, we did not stick to it, and for that I am sorry."
The admission of error, came before next week's Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton at which his ability to take the party into the next election will be under scrutiny.
It was stressed that Clegg was apologising for making the pledge to the National Union of Students before the election not to raise tuition fees, but not for the eventual decision by the coalition to lift the cap on fees to £9,000.
The deputy prime minister made the decision to confess in an attempt to win back a hearing from a public that he feels, at least until recently, had tuned him out because of its unrelenting anger over the broken tuition fee pledge.
Promising to learn from his mistakes, he vowed: "I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it."
Clegg believes that with another coalition possible after the 2015 election, all three parties must be clearer about pledges that would survive coalition negotiations. He is aware some of the electorate will take his apology as a sign of vulnerability or the act of a desperate man at a time when his personal poll ratings are plumbing new depths, but he believes others will find his honesty refreshing. Clegg insists he will take his party into the next election and believes this move will help clear the path.
Shabina Mahmood, the shadow higher education minister, said: "Clegg's apology for promising not to raise fees, but not for £9,000 fees themselves, is too little too late for the students starting this week."
Liam Burns, the NUS president, said: "Nick Clegg should be apologising to voters for breaking his pledge, not for making it in the first place."