They agree with Nick - but students are outraged

As the Lib Dem leader goes viral, supporters say he had to do it for the sake of the party

Liberal Democrat ministers, MPs and activists rallied round Nick Clegg yesterday after his surprise mea culpa for his tuition fees U-turn – but his words failed to defuse anger among student leaders, who demanded a change of policy instead of a display of contrition.

The episode also took a bizarre turn when a spoof video setting his solemn apology to music went viral on the internet, potentially exposing the Deputy Prime Minister to fresh ridicule over his decision in Government to tear up an election commitment to oppose rises in fees.

Mr Clegg decided on the dramatic move after attending public and party meetings over the summer at which the issue was constantly raised by critics, as well as internal polling which showed it was blighting the Liberal Democrats' electoral prospects.

The party released footage of his apology – to be screened next week – ahead of its annual conference in an effort to kill off the subject before delegates start arriving in Brighton tomorrow.

Senior party figures lined up to back Mr Clegg's initiative, although Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, was careful to point out he had been sceptical about the election pledge.

Crucially for Mr Clegg, the MP Greg Mulholland, one of the most fierce Liberal Democrat critics of the fees about-turn, welcomed his apology. He said: "This took courage and I hope people give him credit for saying that publicly."

The majority of activists posting on the Liberal Democrat Voice website also supported their leader. Its co-editor, Mark Pack, said: "Overwhelmingly, party members have welcomed him taking a big and bold step on an issue that is clearly still a big and damaging problem for the party."

However, as the first undergraduates subject to the new funding system started arriving at university, the National Union of Students was scathing in its verdict.

Its president, Liam Burns, said: "It's up to Nick Clegg now to reach out and apologise to those he betrayed by breaking his fees pledge and to make amends by changing his policies."

Lib Dem sources insisted there would be no alteration to Coalition policy on higher education funding, but did not rule out the Liberal Democrats standing on a platform of abolishing tuition fees at the next general election. Meanwhile Mr Clegg gave permission for the video mocking his apology to be released as a single on iTunes, with profits going to Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust.

His aides insisted they were relaxed about it becoming an internet hit, arguing that it would help to get the subject of Mr Clegg's apology discussed.

One said it was impossible to ignore the damage being done to the party by the accusation that he had broken his word. "It comes up every single time Nick gives an interview – it wasn't withering on the vine as an issue," he said.

But another acknowledged: "It will take some time before we know whether the apology has worked. The main thing is to get it out there."

Clegg's apology: What the party thinks

Vince Cable, Business Secretary

"I was sceptical about the pledge but we agreed collectively to do it and I take my share of the responsibility … It was an unwise commitment to have made and we regret that and that was the basis of the apology … We have been badly punished for it. We have lost a lot of trust but we are acknowledging it."

David Laws, Schools minister

"He [Nick Clegg] took on the party and told them what they didn't want to hear, which was the pledge of abolishing tuition fees overnight was not affordable, that we'd have to do it over two parliaments. He now regrets, and I now regret and Vince Cable now regrets, that we didn't go further to point out how tough this would be."

Jo Swinson, East Dunbartonshire MP

"The problem with this particular pledge for the Liberal Democrats, and what made it different, was it committed us to vote in a particular way regardless of what happened with the election result. That's what we should not have done."

Greg Mulholland, Leeds North West MP

"I welcome Nick's apology for what was a mistake. This took courage and I hope people give him credit for saying that publicly. Let's be clear that what we now have is basically a capped graduate tax, which is fairer and more progressive than Labour's upfront fees."

Relax visa laws to boost UK tech economy, report says

The Government must relax Britain's draconian visa rules to make it easier for digital start-ups to hire international graduates, a think-tank with close links to the Conservative leadership says today.

In a report on how to take advantage of the rapid growth in the international high-tech economy, Policy Exchange recommends easing the visa requirements for skilled migrants, to enable start-up businesses to take on highly skilled staff for a two-year probationary period.

It the longer term it says Britain's education system needs to radically improve the quality and quantity of home-grown science, technology, engineering and maths graduates.

Oliver Wright

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
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

Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting

£400 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting ...

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices