Nick Clegg eats humble pie over broken promises

Harman dismisses Deputy Prime Minister's mea culpa as 'crocodile tears'

Nick Clegg has made an abject apology to the nation for his broken promise on university tuition fees in a final attempt to stop his U-turn haunting his leadership.

Almost two years after the Coalition agreed to treble fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year, the Liberal Democrat leader admitted he was wrong to fight the 2010 election on a pledge not to raise them.

In a party political broadcast to be screened on Monday, Mr Clegg says: "There is 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 Deputy Prime Minister's move is a huge gamble. His critics will see it as a sign of weakness amid speculation that his party may replace him with Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, before the next election.

Mr Clegg hopes his unprecedented "mea culpa" will finally cast off the millstone that has hung around his neck since the rise in fees was announced. He insists that the policy, which he now calls "a time-limited graduate tax", was right – but admits he was wrong to sign the National Union of Students' pledge not to raise fees because his party could only share power with the Conservatives or Labour, both of whom were committed to higher charges.

He decided to "fess up" to the country during his summer holiday in Spain – and refused to be talked out of it when some aides doubted his strategy. He scribbled most of the words during his break and the broadcast was filmed in the living room of his home in London.

The Liberal Democrat leader hopes privately that his apology will "clear the decks" so that his party gets a hearing for its work inside the Coalition.

He admits in the broadcast that it will not be enough for everyone, saying: "I owe you to be up front about it. And I don't believe it should cast a shadow over everything else the Liberal Democrats are achieving in Government."

Mr Clegg's dramatic move comes on the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton starting on Saturday, where his leadership will be in the spotlight as he tries to reassure his party that he is the right man to lead it into the 2015 election.

His personal ratings have sunk to an all-time low, according to an Ipsos Mori survey, showing that 66 per cent of people are dissatisfied and 23 per cent satisfied with his performance. Unusually, more Liberal Democrat supporters are unhappy than happy with him.

In another setback for Mr Clegg, a report out today says his flagship £1.25bn-a-year "pupil premium" scheme to help disadvantaged children has had little or no impact on the way they are taught in more than 50 per cent of schools. Instead, many schools are using the extra cash to fund existing provision threatened by cuts or allowing the cash to be swallowed up in their main budget, the first in-depth study by the education standards watchdog Ofsted shows. Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, said: "Instead of crying crocodile tears he should vote with Labour to bring these tuition fees down. If Nick Clegg does not back his words with action he is just weak and spineless."

The Deputy Prime Minister's allies admit his bold move may attract criticism in the short term but believe that over time it will win the party more of a hearing from voters who have deserted it since 2010.

They insist that it is much better to tackle the issue still haunting the party now rather than make an even more belated apology during the 2015 election campaign.

Mr Clegg's words may sit uncomfortably alongside a claim today by Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister, that the overwhelming majority of voters supported higher fees at the last general election. He tells The Spectator magazine: "People had a choice of voting for a party that didn't want tuition fees and only 8 per cent of the constituencies in the country returned an MP from that party, so the people spoke and the people spoke very loudly and they said, 'We want higher fees'."

'We made a pledge...' Clegg's apology

"We made a promise before the election that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances. But that was a mistake. It was a pledge made with the best of intentions – but we shouldn't have made a promise we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver.

I shouldn't have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around. Not least when the most likely way we'd end up in Government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who were both committed to put fees up. I know that we fought to get the best policy we could in those circumstances.

But I also realise that isn't the point. 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."

Call for limit on London homes for foreigners

A clampdown on wealthy foreigners buying second homes in central London is to be proposed at the Lib Dem party conference next week.

The motion will call for councils to be allowed to prevent houses from being sold as second homes to overseas buyers domiciled abroad, requiring them to let them out instead. The move comes after Simon Hughes, the party's deputy leader, said foreign investment in housing was pricing Londoners out of the market.

Mira Bar-Hillel

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone