I felt for Simon Hughes as he was faced with two scathing student leaders on Newsnight, as clearly his instincts on the subject of tuition fees are in the right place - which is more than can be said for most of his party's government ministers. But nevertheless I found myself getting increasingly irritated by the way in which he was defending the Liberal Democrat stance - that their opposition to tuition fees was one manifesto pledge, it would have been implemented had they won the election, they didn't win the election, a coalition was formed, compromises had to be made, etc, etc. I think most people understand perfectly well that you can only realistically be held 100% to a pledge about what you will deliver in government if you actually win the election outright and form a majority government - although admittedly some London scribes seem to struggle with that concept when they innocently ask why the SNP haven't "held the referendum" yet. But the pledge the Liberal Democrats signed (virtually in blood) on tuition fees wasn't a standard manifesto pledge about what they would hypothetically deliver as a majority government - it was a very practical pledge about how they would vote in parliament, one that they would have been in a position to honour in full whatever the outcome of the election. The only conclusion a reasonable person could have drawn from the pledge was that any coalition the Lib Dems entered into would at the very least have to be conditional on allowing the party's MPs special dispensation to vote against (not abstain - the pledge was very specific) any increase in tuition fees.
Some would have us believe that the pledge was idiotic and nigh-on impossible to fulfil. But there's actually nothing hard about voting in the Commons in the way you solemnly promised to - all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.