Will Nick Clegg choke on his tuition fees humble pie?
There's no easy way to say this, Nick, but it looks like Vince Cable might have been blaming you for tuition fees fiasco
NICK CLEGG has received a sceptical press reaction this morning after his unprecedented YouTube apology (below) for breaking his election pledge not to raise tuition fees.
The Lib Dem leader got support (of sorts) from his colleague Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, on BBC Newsnight, but most newspapers view it as a high-risk strategy to bolster his position with Lib Dem grassroots supporters gathering for their annual party conference on Saturday.
Reading the papers over his muesli this morning, Clegg may wonder whether he has done the right thing... and ask himself, 'What is Vince's game?'
Cable, the biggest threat to Clegg's leadership, told Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight he was always sceptical about the election pledge not to raise tuition fees because it would have meant raising money elsewhere.
Cable insisted it was not just Clegg who was apologising but the parliamentary party as a whole.
He said: "I was sceptical about the pledge but we agreed collectively to do it and I take my share of the responsibility.
"I personally was sceptical about the whole fees policy. I signed the pledge on the basis that had we been in Government on our own, which was the commitment, we would have put through that policy and we would have done so."
Cable might be swallowing his share of the humble pie, but he is in effect blaming Clegg for allowing this daft commitment to go into the election manifesto.
Even the normally friendly Independent says Clegg is taking a "huge gamble" by his "abject apology".
Clegg's words, to be included in a party political broadcast, do appear cringe-making: "There's no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn't stick to it - and for that I am sorry."
The Daily Mail says the "high risk move, unprecedented in recent political history" split opinion at Westminster. Some of Clegg's advisers warned him against it.
James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph blogs that Clegg is acting like "a husband caught cheating on his wife who tells her he's sorry he took the marriage vow to be faithful" and he reckons it shows Clegg is trying to save his skin with Lib Dem voters rather than reaching out to floating voters.
Only The Times says he has been "wise". The hostile Daily Mirror says it should be taken with a pinch of salt while The Sun says it is "an admission of how badly the Lib Dems have been damaged" by the tuition fees debacle.
Readers of the liberal-leaning Guardian are also sceptical. Bloggers on the Guardian website which is carrying out a straw poll of support for his apology this morning are saying it is a sign of weakness, and one says "at least Mrs Thatcher had backbone". Another says he is "toast". That could make Clegg choke on his breakfast.