So I’m there showering and thinking of witty lines to use on the air this evening (I couldn’t think of any) and by the time I got back to the PC to check e-mail and twitter before I left everything exploded.
Nick Clegg had apologised. What had he apologised for exactly? Well he had apologised for signing the pledge that said the Lib Dems would not back any rise in tuition fees. He didn’t apologise for being in government and raising the tuition fees upper-limit. Is this significant? Yes. Did he apologise for the right thing? Undoubtedly.
Last year I got to the opportunity to interview Nick Clegg and I got the killer quote from him in response to my question about whether he needs to apologise for just this, ‘I think about saying sorry every day’. To quote from my own piece:
He doesn’t think he can openly say sorry because people will retort ‘well you were in Government so you could not have done it’ and that it would do no good. I got the sense that he deep down wanted to apologise but either he thinks – or his advisers think – that is just wouldn’t be credible.
I think today he finally got that monkey off of his back. He didn’t do this because I implored him to. He probably doesn’t even remember me. He did it because finally he either felt that it was time to do the right thing or he knew if he didn’t he was finished. I am unsure as to which it was but I choose to believe that it is the former rather than the latter.
You see the thing is I do really like and respect Nick Clegg. I think he’s a very intelligent man and he is a passionate liberal. I don’t believe for one iota that he’s just a Tory in liberal clothing. I’ve listened to the man speak and he believes in liberal ideology. He believes in a fair society and ensuring that those who don’t have the chances of others are not ostracised and kept down. He doesn’t think that the poor need hand-outs to survive but he does believe in helping hands and if hand-outs are needed to help them get on their feet then he believes that is the way forward.
True Tories essentially don’t care and believe that the vast majority of people on benefits are there because they choose to be. Whilst some are the majority are not. This is where Nick Clegg clearly differs from the Tory party and that is why I have no qualms whatsoever that he’s a true liberal and why I get very annoyed when people lazily claim that Clegg’s a Tory without any real thought.
The apology was needed but it is way later than it should have been. Will it change minds of people up and down the country Probably not but it does give Lib Dem activists up and down the land a response to being told how they can’t trust the Lib Dems any more. The thing is politicians lie. All parties had Lords Reform in their manifestos but backbench Tories and Labour scuppered that bill but are they called liars?
All manifestos have things in that aren’t fulfilled. Didn’t the 1997 Labour manifesto have a referendum of the House of Lords? I do believe it does. Here is the paragraph:
The House of Lords must be reformed. As an initial, self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform in the future, the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute. This will be the first stage in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative. The legislative powers of the House of Lords will remain unaltered.
So a lie or was it just a mistruth?
The reason the Lib Dems pledge and subsequent backtracking on it was news – serious news – was essentially because it was the Lib Dems and for the first time in several generations liberals had some say in how the country was won. We were the great hope that things could be different and we failed. Oh boy did we fail.
Do I think that people will trust the Lib Dems again? Maybe, maybe not but for others to trust the Lib Dems then first of all Lib Dems need to trust the Lib Dems. Hopefully as a party we can start to move forward from this whole affair and start uniting once more. A genuinely apology goes a long way with me personally and I think it has gone a long way with many fellow members. Even some of Nick’s strongest critics have felt a sense of relief that he has done this. Whether that relief is short-lived I don’t know but at least it gives us all the opportunity to move on.
I am genuinely delighted by Nick’s decision to apologise. He (along with the other people in the decision making loop) screwed up big time and I mean big time. If you make a mistake then you need to apologise before you can truly move on. He should’ve done it ages ago but the old adage ‘better late than never’ is still applicable in my eyes. I hope this leads to a more united future for the party and revitalises the grass roots. If the people on the ground start feeling that the sky isn’t falling in any more then maybe they’ll start believing in themselves and the party again.
This apology to me seemed aimed not only at the country but at his own party. He knows his party is haemorrhaging support not solely from the electorate but also within the Lib Dems. Membership has fallen and even those that have stayed are doing so with an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomachs. This should help and heck if there’s one thing we know from all this is that suddenly Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton from Saturday is going to be a whole lot more interesting…
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