Nick Clegg: I hope tuition fees apology will help Norwich MP Simon Wright

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has said he hopes his apology over tuition fees will help keep Norwich South MP Simon Wright in his seat at the next general election.

Mr Wright defeated Labour big hitter Charles Clarke by 310 votes to win the seat for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 general election.

But, with Labour having targeted the seat through their prospective parliamentary candidate Clive Lewis, the Lib Dem's failure to keep their manifesto pledge to oppose tuition fees is likely to be highlighted come polling time.

But, during a visit to Norfolk yesterday, which saw Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg visit Norwich and Letheringsett, near Holt, Mr Clegg said he hoped his filmed apology meant, once the dust settles, people would see 'the reality' rather than the rhetoric.

He said: 'To be fair to Simon, he did vote against the changes, but I think it was a mistake for me, for us, to have said we would vote against them in any circumstances, when clearly we ended up in a coalition government.

'I lead a party of 8pc of MPs in Westminster and whether it had been a coalition with Labour or a coalition with the Conservatives, the result would have been the same because both larger parties were determined to see fees go up.

'I hope now I've clearly explained that was a mistake for which I've just apologised, people will concentrate a little bit more on what's actually going to happen in the new system, rather than what is alleged to happen.

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'I hope that by the next general election, actually what people will find, much to their surprise, I suspect, is far from all the scaremongering put about by the Labour party and others, that youngsters are going to have to cough up thousands of pounds the moment they arrive at university, extraordinarily enough, students in Norwich who are on part-time courses, will for the first time not have to pay any upfront fees at all.

'Thousands and thousands of part-time students, who in Norwich and elsewhere, have, under Labour's fee system, had to pay up fees when they can least afford it when they are students.'