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
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink