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Clegg's pledge to block £16,000 tuition fees is a hostage to fortune

There are plenty of Tories who believe that the top universities should be allowed to charge higher fees.

Nick Clegg speaks at the Buhler Sortex factory on October 8, 2013 in east London. Photograph: Getty Images.

After the trouble he got himself into over tuition fees in 2010, one might have thought Nick Clegg would steer clear of similar pledges, not least over that subject. But at the opening of Wayra UnLtd in London today, he made a familiar commitment. 

In response to calls from Oxford vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton and others for the tuition fee cap to be raised from £9,000 to up to £16,000 (the annual cost of educating an undergraduate), he said: "Don't worry, we're not going to raise tuition fees to £16,000." 

With Clegg both hoping and expecting to be in government after the next election, his comments are a genuine hostage to fortune. There are plenty of Tories, for instance, who believe that the top universities should be allowed to charge higher fees. If this is a "red line", it had better be one that the Deputy PM will not allow to be crossed.