Political

“A welcome outbreak of plain speaking from Nick Clegg”

Political, journalistic, public and party views span the full range from “brilliant” to “dreadful” on Nick Clegg’s apology this week over that tuition fees pledge.

No surprise that Harriet Harman is not a fan of the Liberal Democrats (a view largely reciprocated, of course.) What matters more is the views of those 5-10% of the electorate that would take the party’s ratings from the middling 14-15% on ICM (typical of the run-up to the 1997 and 2001 elections) to the 20%+ figure that would have most people in the party rejoicing.

I’ve been struck by the number of political commentators who are normally very forthright in reactions to breaking events who have been rather nuanced in their initial responses, reflecting how unsure they are over how such an unusual move will go down.

It’s also the case that the long-term impact of a political move such as this is often different from its initial short-term appearance. Even so, some of the early signs are rather promising – such as this in the Daily Telegraph:

For a politician who bears as many scars on his back as Nick Clegg, it was either an act of bravery or masochism to choose the eve of his party conference to make a high-profile apology for the tuition fees debacle – and to do so in that most easily parodied of formats, the YouTube video. Sure enough, Mr Clegg’s confession was soon the subject of widespread mockery and reappropriation, the highlight being its ingenious conversion into a catchy pop song…

The Deputy Prime Minister’s gambit was not just courageous, but admirable. First, it showed the maturity that government has forced on the Lib Dems, an acceptance of the folly of basing an election campaign around an eye-catching pledge that the leadership realised even then could not be kept. It was also to Mr Clegg’s credit that he took the jokes in good grace, agreeing that the pop song crafted from his words can be released as a charity single.

Above all, in an age when ministers and MPs go to extreme lengths to avoid confessing any error, it was refreshing to see a simple and seemingly sincere admission of fallibility. Indeed, Mr Clegg’s intentions were in tune with the spirit of the times.

You can read the full piece here.

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