Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg revealed in a live, no-strings-attached interview on Channel 4 late night show The Last Leg, his guilt over the rise of tuition fees. It is fair to say that the Deputy Prime Minister does have one hand tidied behind his back when it comes to government policies, the result of being the Junior Partner in a coalition. However, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had promised in their 2010 manifesto to reduce University fees. Now, it would have been very difficult for the Liberal Democrats to enforce their policy aim when the Conservatives were pushing austerity measures and cuts in public spending. Nevertheless, tuition fees rose to a hefty £9000 a year for native students.
Rightly so then, that the Deputy Prime Minister should reveal his guilt. Nick Clegg should have offered a whole-hearted apology to the students who voted for the his party in May 2010 on the pretence that if they entered government (not really envisioned), fees would remain the same or decrease.
Although it was inevitable that fees would rise under a Conservative government, and to a certain degree it was necessary in the effort to rebalance the national spending after the 2008 global financial crisis. It is an indictment of the political elite, sheltered from the realities of life, when most were and still are struggling to pay mortgages and rent, food and heating. The least the Liberal Democrat leader should have offered was public sincerity, perhaps this may have distanced his party from the backlash the government experienced during a turbulent first year.
It is no surprise that Nick Clegg came out with his tail between his legs. The Liberal Democrats have taken an obvious hit in the polls and with less than 100 days until the election it is vital to regain some credibility. Perhaps Clegg’s revelation was tactical, somehow trying to appeal to the audience with a down-to-earth tone. Either way, his guilt offers no remorse to those who had relied on him. Can people really forgive him?