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
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
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
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor