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Published on Sep 19, 2012

I'd like to take this opportunity to put a few things straight.

When I meet people around the country, it's obvious that many of you have strong - and pretty mixed - reactions to some of the things Liberal Democrats have done in government.

Many of you tell me you're glad that at a time of real economic uncertainty, we put aside our political differences to provide our country with stable leadership.

BUT, I also meet people who are disappointed and angry that we couldn't keep all our promises - above all our promise not to raise tuition fees.

To those people, I say this:
We made a promise before the election that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances.
But that was a mistake.
It was a pledge made with the best of intentions - but we shouldn't have made a promise we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver.

I shouldn't have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around.
Not least when the most likely way we'd end up in Government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who were both committed to put fees up.

I know that we fought to get the best policy we could in those circumstances.
But I also realise that isn't the point.
There's no easy way to say this: we made a pledge...
we didn't stick to it - and for that I am sorry.
When you've made a mistake you should apologise.
But more importantly - most important of all - you've got to learn from your mistakes. And that's what we will do.
I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it.

I accept that won't be enough for everyone.
But I owe it to you to be up front about it.
And I don't believe it should cast a shadow over everything else the Liberal Democrats are achieving in government.
When we're wrong we hold our hands up.
But when we're right we hold our heads up too.

We were right to leave the comfort of opposition to face the realities of government.
And I know we are fighting for the right things, day in, day out, too:
Rebuilding our economy to make it strong.

Changing the tax system to make it fair.
Defending the vulnerable in these tough times.

That's what my party believes in.
That's what I believe in.

And, if we've lost your trust, that's how I hope we can start to win it back.

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