Pledges made in election campaigns have been historically broken by prominent politicians throughout aeons. In more recent times, George H W Bush notoriously claimed “Read my lips, no new taxes” at the 1988 Republican National convention during the election campaign.
This pledge was effectively broken by the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act and was thus, instrumental in Bush’s defeat to Bill Clinton in the 1992 American Presidential Election.
Gordon Brown was on a crest of a wave when he succeeded Tony Blair in 2007. Brown was seriously considering going to the country to gain his own five year mandate but his plans were buckled by a stroke of genius by the Conservatives. The Conservatives famously pledged to increase the threshold of Inheritance Tax from £325,000 to £1,000,000.
Brown decided against a snap election and that decision had huge significance for both himself and his prime ministerial successor, David Cameron. With the change of Government in 2010, the very popular pledge that Cameron made has never actually been implemented but it hasn’t damaged him politically. With an election due in 2015, David Cameron has, quelle surprise, revived his pledge from 2007.
Whilst Cameron has escaped unscathed from his 2007 pledge, his deputy Nick Clegg, is unlikely to have the same fate in the 2015 election. Clegg famously pledged to end student tuition fees in his electoral campaign of 2010. It is impossible to say how many votes the Liberal Democrats gained due to that pledge but it’s safe to say that we will find out come next years election
Not only have tuition fees not been abolished, they have actually tripled since the 2010 election. Clegg issued a grudging apology in November 2010 by saying “I should have been more careful perhaps“. In September 2012, Clegg was more forthcoming by saying “we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it – and for that I’m sorry“.
With Cleggs pledge to scrap tuition fees being annihalted alongside his core policy of the Alternate vote being routed in a referendum in 2011, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what he has achieved in coalition with David Cameron. What can be said with some confidence is that the only pledge you can trust, is the one that is used to clean the household furniture.
The only pledge you can trust
Photograph of Nick Clegg and David Cameron, image by The Prime Minster’s Office