Nick Clegg took to YouTube yesterday to offer an apology for his party’s decision to go back on its pledge not to increase tuition fees.
However, the footage quickly became the subject of spoofing by web users, with Clegg giving approval for one version of the film to be issued by satirical website thepoke as long as all profits went to charity.
Simon Redfern, partner at Pagefield, commented that the spoofing helped get the message out in a light hearted way, helping temper some of the anger around the original issue.
‘It gives Clegg a bit of a halo effect. I know of people who wouldn’t have watched it if it hadn’t been for the remix,’ he said.
He clearly wanted it to get to a wider audience and the mickey taking and retweeting helped it get up the agenda, while the decision to approve a version showed he has a sense of humour and isn’t too precious.’
Student protests, some of which turned violent, broke out after MPs approved plans to allow universities in England to charge annual tuition fees of up to £9,000 in 2010.
The vote was pushed by the coalition Government, despite the Liberal Democrats campaigning on an anti fee rise platform while in opposition.
Clegg’s video was released just days ahead of the Liberal Democrat party conference, with Redfern interpreting the video as a way of dealing with the issue before it erupts among party members.
Laura Chisholm, director at Hanover, interpreted Clegg’s decision to use YouTube as a way of controlling the agenda, something she thought would have been more difficult in an interview situation.
She echoed Fern in questioning the decision to make such an explicit apology, adding it would have been put in a wider context ‘to address the broader point of where the Lid Dems are as a party.’
However, she added that Clegg’s clever handling of the spoof had led to a reputational ‘score draw’.
‘It was a good way of dealing with it. It shows a dissemination of the message, albeit not in the way he hoped, but that’s how comms works, and it helped make the most out of the situation.’