Sorry Nick, I'm not sure an apology will be enough

We like our politicians to be honest - but when they own up to making mistakes we tend to snigger
  • @Simon_Kelner

“The symptoms of remorse are very like flu,” wrote Andrew Marr this week, but it could just have as easily been Nick Clegg. Both men have been perched on the penitent stool, telling the nation exactly how sorry they are for their respective infelicities.

Marr was caught recently on camera in a rather compromising late-night clinch with a colleague, but at least he had the excuse of being drunk. Clegg, who one assumes was sober when he pledged before the last election that the Lib Dems would block any rise in university tuition fees, made an abject apology for failing to honour that commitment.

So, if Marr is right in his analysis, has he been suffering from a high temperature, headache and tiredness, aching muscles, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and upset stomach? These are the recognised signs of flu according to the NHS choices website, which also says “your symptoms will usually peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days”.

It is now a couple of weeks or so since Marr was plastered (so to speak) all over a tabloid Sunday newspaper with his hand casually down the back of a colleague's jeans while bidding her farewell (not the way I generally say goodbye to a co-worker, but each to his own), so it's safe to say that his bout of influenza has been hard to shake off. Marr has now explained that the pictures were taken at the end of a long evening to signal the completion of filming for his new series. He stopped short of saying he was tired and emotional, but confessed to being in “a state of utter exhaustion”.

Given that the series in question is called A History of the World, Marr surely can be forgiven for celebrating the conclusion of a work of such scope and scale, although it's hard to imagine AJP Taylor, on reaching the end of one of his major tomes, marking the occasion by getting bladdered and copping a feel of one of his researchers.

Anyway, Marr has been apologising to anyone who'll listen (the reaction of his wife is not known), and of course this incident should have no effect whatsoever on his professional life and, I hope, on his reputation as one of Britain's best broadcasters.

For Nick Clegg, however, the future is not so clear. The great British electorate demand that our politicians should be honest and forthright, but of course when one of them expresses unequivocal regret for getting something wrong, he or she is generally derided as weak and untrustworthy. Essentially, Mr Clegg had no choice.

Whoever has led Britain's third political party has, down the years, made pledges just as bold as Mr Clegg's at election time, safe in the knowledge that they won't be anywhere near government and there's absolutely no chance their promises will be exposed as so much hot air.

Mr Clegg finds himself, unluckily, in a position of power, so he had to come clean. What has he got to do to make you love him? These days, sorry seems to be the simplest word. Have a good weekend.