John Walsh: If this column offends you, I apologise...

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The Independent Online

I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry. I'm unbelievably contrite. I deeply regret my folly. Are you a little tired of the orgy of apologies that seems to make up 30 per cent of the news these days? And the weird thing is, nobody seems to have a clue how to say sorry with any conviction.

The latest amateur groveller is a tousle-haired youth called Frankie Cocozza, who was recently booted off The X Factor after being overheard by the production team bragging about taking cocaine on a night out with some blondes. The pocket lothario, aged 18 with a hairstyle like a crashed yak, distinguished himself on the talent show by sporting a horrible pair of grey tights, which he dropped on stage to reveal the names of seven girl conquests tattooed on his buttocks.

But when he was fired, his apology sounded as if it was written for him by a housemaster at St Custard's: "My life during the show had gone out of control, and my behaviour over-stepped the rules of the competition. I no longer deserve my place in the show so I am leaving."

It seems only yesterday that Liam Fox was trying to apologise for giving his friend Adam Werritty constant free access to the House of Commons. Did he say, "Sorry – it was wrong and I shouldn't have done it"? No chance. He said: "My frequent contacts with him may have given the impression of wrongdoing", and said he regretted that the impression of wrongdoing had been "allowed" to "develop" – as though it had flourished in some unknown person's dark room, sanctioned by an unknown, possibly sinister, figure of authority.

Practically on the same day, the Daily Mirror revealed that Oliver Letwin, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, had been photographed on five separate days throwing away government documents by stuffing them in public bins in St James's Park. Did he say, "I'm sorry, but people are always going through my bins in the Cabinet Office and I prefer doing it outside anyway"? No, he blathered on about his sorrow that the papers "had been allowed" to go into the bins, as though by a special note from Matron.

I'm bored with all this periphrasis and passivity, these apologies calibrated for maximum diplomatic formality. They lack any sense of direct speech, or any straightforward connection between the wrong and the wrongdoer, any admission of being personally involved. Mark my words, if Theresa May ever resigns over the border control issue, her speech will begin: "I'm sure we're all very upset that Parliament appears to have been misled by somebody, and therefore I'm leaving to grieve in private. Thank you."

Sounds like a five-star jail to me

According to the red-tops, British prisons have become too lax. So what would they make of Acapulco Jail? When federal cops invaded it on Monday, to transfer 60 inmates to a maximum-security facility, they discovered 19 live-in prostitutes, sacks of marijuana, bottles of tequila, 100 fighting cocks and two peacocks, apparently pets.

The jail sounds like a happening joint. It's strange that the authorities didn't smell a rat, what with the constant arrival of delivery lorries from the Jose Cuervo distillery, the flashing neon sign saying "!GIRLS!" on the roof, the mariachi racket from the bar juke-box, the brisk trade in Rizla papers at the jail's shopping mall, and the enthusiastic review of the place in Time Out Mexico.

j.walsh@independent.co.uk

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