Thursday, 20 September 2012

Clegg's Apology

I'm not ashamed to say it: for the greater part of my voting life I have supported the Liberal Democrats or their political predecessors the Liberals & the Social Democratic Party (SDP) - in fact in my 20s I was a member of the SDP.

At the last General election in 2010 I, like many others across the country, was excited about the prospect of the Lib Dems being involved in the nations political life in a way that they hadn't for the best part of a century. Nick Clegg was coming across as a leader-in-waiting, and one particular policy - opposing any rise in University tuition fees - was hitting a nerve nationally, and certainly in Clegg's adopted city of Sheffield where I live and work. Many of us remember the scenes of frustrated students unable to vote on election night because the polling stations simply couldn't cope with the numbers who turned out.

Following the election, Clegg and his party executive took the decision to form a coalition with the Tories - the largest single party in the poll, but with no clear majority - and a government was formed. Sadly, very early on in that administration, the pledge on university tuition fees was scrapped as financially unworkable, and much to my distress and anger, Clegg then stated that he hadn't really meant what he'd publicly promised.

From that point, I felt that I could no longer support the party in any election for the foreseeable future. And so far I have maintained that feeling.

Over the last 24 hours (as I write) Clegg has sought to set the record straight, to un-muddy the waters and - wait for it - to apologise (a rare word with politicians). But he's not apologised for breaking his word - for lying to voters and potential voters: no, he's simply apologised for making the pledge in the first place.

He believes that the decision to sign the pledge and then to break his word has become a weight round his and the party's ankles: too true, but he's showing no remorse at all for lying, simply for making the decision that won him so many votes in the first place. This move, ahead of the Party Conference next week, where Clegg will probably face anger from some local activists, is certainly not going to convince me to go back on my pledge, not to support the party I have most clearly empathised with for the majority of my adult life, certainly while Clegg is still leader and is still legitimising Cameron's divisive, elitist regime - a Government this country did not vote for and does not want.