Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Apology right thing to do: Clegg

The cover of Nick Clegg Says I'm Sorry (The Autotune Remix), which has gone on sale (Taylor Herring/PA)

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has insisted he has no regrets over saying sorry for his party's tuition fee pledge despite the video apology being widely lampooned.

The Liberal Democrat leader said it was inevitable that people would "sneer" and "mock", but he defended the move as the "right thing to do".

Reactions in Westminster to the apology were mixed and one website turned the two-and-a-half minute film into a song that is now being released as a single.

"Of course people are going to sneer, mock and say it is not good enough," Mr Clegg told The Independent ahead of the start of the Lib Dem autumn conference on Sunday. "I just genuinely thought what we did was wrong and I should apologise for it. I just hope that reasonable people - whether they have heard it to music or not - will think okay, fair enough, he's come clean."

Asked whether he has any regrets about the move, he said: "What, you want me to apologise for the apology? Of course not."

A defiant Mr Clegg also dismissed suggestions his days as leader were numbered, vowing to lead the Lib Dems "through and beyond the next election" and accusing critics within the party of "losing their nerve".

He added: "When I stand up in the (TV) leadership debates at the next election, I will be a different person to last time, when many voters had no idea who I was. We will be a battle-hardened party and I will bear the scars to show it. If we hold our nerve, I believe many fair-minded people in Britain will think 'we didn't like this decision or that decision, but on the big judgments they got it right'."

Mr Clegg insisted he would block any moves by the Conservatives to introduce a freeze on benefits without extra taxes being imposed on the rich, adding: "You cannot fill the remainder of the black hole from the wealthy alone. But that is where you start, and you work down. You don't start with the bottom and then work up. That is just wrong."

He said: "It is not realistic to assume you cannot have any further cuts and savings. Where they fall is an entirely different matter. The Conservatives appear to be saying they want it all to fall on welfare. That's totally unacceptable to me. They are not going to take all of that £10 billion out of welfare. I am not saying you can leave welfare untouched because it is a third of total public spending. But the idea that you ask welfare to take all of the strain is something I will not allow to happen."

Mr Clegg gave permission for the spoof apology created by satirical website www.thepoke.co.uk to be released as a single, Nick Clegg Says I'm Sorry (The Autotune Remix), which went on sale at iTunes on Friday night. All profits will be given to Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, of which his wife Miriam is a patron.

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