It was supposed to be a dignified apology, the first step towards regaining the trust of disenfranchised voters feeling betrayed over tuition fees. Instead, Nick Clegg’s apology became an unexpected pop hit as an auto-tuned version went viral, clocking up over a million views and reaching no.132 in the UK charts despite only being on sale for a single day.
Videos mocking celebrities are nothing new and Clegg was quite right to react in the manner that he did. By agreeing to allow the song to be released as a charity single, he delivered a calm, measured response and showed the ability to self-deprecate, a quality most politicians in this country generally appear to wholly lack. His stock could hardly have been lower amongst voters; if anything, the video will have increased his popularity.
The second consequence, and one that will suit Clegg and the Liberal Democrats entirely, is that of the inevitable distortion of the message. By turning the apology into a joke, video creators The Poke may well have done the third party in British politics a huge favour by distracting people from the original message and deflecting some of the genuine anger that many feel on the issue.
Clegg did not apologise, not really. It was a statement that exposed Clegg’s commitment to a cause he had appeared devotedly behind as hollow and insincere. His tuition fees pledge was to be what many suspected all along – pure vote grabbing at its worst.
“When we’re wrong we put our hands up, when we’re right we hold our heads up,” the song croons. There is no pride to be had, however, in breaking one of your party’s central pledges. For the party that promised not to be the ones who broke their promises, Nick Clegg’s unlikely pop career is unlikely to sway the prevailing mood of the electorate back in their favour. For the Liberal Democrats, there remains a mountain still to climb.