UK & World News
Lib Dem Leader Sorry For Tuition Fees Rise
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has apologised for breaking an election promise not to increase university tuition fees.
Speaking ahead of the party conference in Brighton, the Deputy Prime Minister said sorry for supporting a rise in fees when the party had pledged not to support an increase before the last General Election.
It now costs students up to £9,000 a year.
In a new party political broadcast to be aired nationally on Monday evening, Mr Clegg said: "There's no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn't stick to it - and for that I am sorry."
It comes as a new poll suggests 51% of Liberal Democrats think Mr Clegg is doing a bad job in office.
Sky News' Glen Oglaza said: "I don't think it's the final nail in the coffin (for Mr Clegg) yet. There's no serious challenge to him and no hunger to oust him."
It is the first time Mr Clegg has apologised to his party for reneging on the election pledge.
But aides close to the Deputy Prime Minister insisted he was not apologising for supporting the policy through Parliament but only for promising to vote against any prospective rise in tuition fees, as he fought the 2010 General Election.
Party aides insist the two-and-a-half minute clip, in which Mr Clegg appears at his home in southwest London, is aimed at the country, not just the thousands of voters who have deserted the party since the last General Election.
In the video clip, Mr Clegg admitted many voters had "strong and pretty mixed feelings" about the Lib Dems record in Government, adding his party had put aside political differences to "provide our country with stable leadership".
He said: "I also meet people who are disappointed and angry that we couldn't keep all our promises - above all our promise not to raise tuition fees.
"To those people, I say this: we made a promise before the election that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances.
"But that was a mistake. It was a pledge made with the best of intentions - but we shouldn't have made a promise we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver."
The party leader said he should not have made such an expensive commitment when there was a lack of money. He added that the party would learn from their mistakes and never again make a policy pledge they could not keep.
He said: "I accept that won't be enough for everyone. But I owe it to you to be up front about it. And I don't believe it should cast a shadow over everything else the Liberal Democrats are achieving in Government.
"When we're wrong, we hold our hands up. But when we're right, we hold our heads up too. We were right to leave the comfort of opposition to face the realities of Government."
It is understood Mr Clegg and aides had been considering an apology for the election pledge over the summer as part of an attempt to regain the trust of voters.