Mark Steel: Nick is sorry – so that's all right then

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The Independent Online

One simple law that could be introduced to clean up politics, would be to make apologising illegal. Because when politicians apologise, they're not sorry at all. They've discussed it with their team and worked out the impact on public opinion and then make a sterile statement such as: "With regard to the film taken secretly in my office, in which I took part in a ceremony in which I drink the blood of a virgin, I would like to say I have apologised personally to the virgin.

"The incident took place during a stressful period of decisions vital to our economy, although I am aware this does not excuse participating in rituals designed to summon Satan. Now, if you please, I would like to get on with my important work at the Treasury."

Fans of Saddam Hussein must be wondering why, instead of hiding in a hole, their hero didn't make a video apologising, that could be put to autotune and released as a single, until even the Kurds said, "You've got to admit he's a good sport."

Even that would go further than the one offered by Nick Clegg, as he hasn't apologised at all for the act that infuriated millions of people, he's only apologised for promising he wouldn't do it in the first place.

If Clegg was sorry about trebling tuition fees, he'd organise protests against them, maybe smashing up his own office and then apologising for allowing the movement to be taken over by militants. But he's clearly not even really sorry about the promise, because the pledge won his party a vast number of votes. If he was sorry he'd ask his MPs that were elected by a small majority to resign, especially those in constituencies with a high number of students, who voted for his party in large numbers.

But it does mean there's a way around paying the fees, which is to take out a loan. Then when the bill comes through to start paying it back, tell the bank: "We're not paying a penny. To be honest I don't know what I was thinking saying I could afford it in the first place. So that's settled then. Sorry."