UK: Clegg Sorry for Breaking University Fee Election Pledge

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is attempting to explain to his Liberal Democrat supporters why he stepped back from his party’s campaign pledge not to allow any increases in university tuition.

The Daily Telegraph reported that while recording a political speech to be broadcast during the Lib Dem Party Conference that will take place this week, Clegg said he made the pledge without being fully cognizant of the financial situation facing the country, and now believes that the plan championed by his Tory partners in government — to triple the maximum tuition universities can charge — was the correct path all along.

Clegg also admits that many of his supporters and fellow party members criticized his choice to support the tuition hike and other actions of Government. In the video he said that the promise was made “with the best of intention,” but without full information, and promised to never again make promises that he wasn’t 100% certain his party could fulfill.

He will say: “I’d like to take this opportunity to put a few things straight….Many of you tell me you’re glad that at a time of real economic uncertainty, we put aside our political differences to provide our country with stable leadership. But, I also meet people who are disappointed and angry that we couldn’t keep all our promises – above all our promise not to raise tuition fees.”

Keeping university fees at the same level they had always been would have cost too much money at the time when the treasury was already sapped by the ongoing Europe-wide recession. However, there’s no good way to tiptoe about the fact the pledge was made and wasn’t kept, and for that he is sorry, he added.

The fortunes of the Liberal Democrat party are closely tied to the issue of tuition fees, as Clegg’s acquiescence to having them tripled mere months after the new Government took office so alienated his base that subsequent polls placed the party’s support at less than 10%. There are some who are speculating that the party might not survive the next general election scheduled to take place in 2015.

Clegg said that it was impossible to continue avoiding the disappointment expressed by his constituents, and he made an independent decision to use the platform provided by the Party Conference to apologize for not keeping his word.

Despite opposition from his advisers, Mr Clegg is keen to “draw a line” about speculation over his leadership at next week’s Liberal Democrat conference and believes the time has now come to directly address critics within his party.

Senior sources say that Mr Clegg is not “expecting absolution” but believes it is now time to “fess up and move on.”