Nick Clegg: ‘Is it ok for politicians to say sorry?’

Lili Bidwell 27 April 2016

Nick Clegg's visit to the Cambridge Union Society on the 27th April was met by a full house of students keen to hear the ex-Deputy Prime Minister speak.

He began by talking about the European Union, and was a strong advocate of remaining a part of Europe. He described the way in which our attitude towards the union has negatively affected our view of the EU, namely that we saw being part of Europe as losing our identity as opposed to gaining a new one, meaning that we are now less likely to support the EU. When questioned on what he thought would happen if we left the EU, he was adamant that disaster would ensue. He thought it highly probable that Scotland would leave us, seeing as gaining independence would allow them to be a part of the EU. He also briefly described the economic problems we would face if Britain was to leave the union.

An audience member asked the pertinent question "Is it ok for politicians to say sorry?". Yes it is, according to Nick Clegg, so long as they have something to say sorry for. He quickly shifted to the broader implications of the question, saying that in life it is always generally a good idea to say sorry. However he reluctantly admitted to the possibility of an apology making a politician look weak, despite the fact he still believed this is the right thing to do.

The issue of tuition fees cropped up a few times, he handled this topic in a jokey manner, attempting to shake it off and view it as a matter of the past, although he clearly felt uncomfortable about this given the room filled with students.

He spoke about the difficulties faced by minority parties in an election, citing the example of himself, who, having come into government suddenly realised that he was not able to do what he wanted. In terms of publicity he explained the difficulties of occupying the middle ground due to the fact that “intruding on duopoly incites ire from both sides.” Furthermore, as a smaller party, compromise was necessary to get things done, he talked about his desire to take action, even if this might not be the perfect solution, if he was to remain pure in his ideological beliefs, nothing would ever be achieved. In some ways he seemed to make excuses for his over compromising during the coalition government.

The electoral system reform was briefly discussed, Clegg dismissed the suggestion that the Lib Dems should never have agreed to the referendum since it was not on their terms. Again he says doing something is better than nothing.

Finishing with his proudest moment in government, the progress made in early childhood education, Clegg was met with applause as he left the room.