That’s the wrong apology, Mr. Clegg

Nick Clegg must be making life very hard for political satirists. Of course, it is unusual for a politician to apologise for anything, especially for breaking promises. However, Clegg is not apologising for his party’s failure to live up to their promise to prevent the rise in tuition fees. He’s apologising for making the promise in the first place.

Apparently, the Lib Dems’ new commitment will be to make no commitments (or at least, none that may be hard to live up to). It is a commitment to no principles, no standards, no values other than self-interest. Of course, going into government with the Tories made that promise impossible to keep. But they had the option not to to so, to commit themselves to opposition. They may still have failed to prevent the rise in fees, but they would have retained their integrity and not enabled a government committed to shifting the cost of the crisis onto ordinary people.

Of course, Clegg says that the reason he shouldn’t have made the promise is that it “was so expensive when there was no money around”. But that is a lie. We know that billions are lost to the country from tax avoidance by large corporations and the richest fraction of a per cent. And we know that pay at the top has risen by 50% while average pay has stagnated or decreased in real terms.

We should’t treat this apology with contempt because it is an expression of weakness. After all, being strong in the wrong cause is nothing to be proud of. No, we should treat it with contempt because it is the wrong apology to make. If this is political honesty, then it almost makes me yearn for ordinary decent hypocrisy.


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