The Sketch: At last the PM says sorry, but does he really mean it?

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It was a very unusual formulation; the last thing we expect from the Prime Minister. "I'm really, really sorry," he said, possibly the first time he's ever used the words in public.</p>If you Google "prime minister + really really sorry" you will now come up with at least: "Results: 1". Maybe we can get a T-shirt made.</p>Our political editor asked him a painful question beginning: "There are more nurses from Malawi working in Birmingham than there are in Malawi" and ending with a suggestion that the NHS toughens up its procedures on poaching staff from Third World countries.</p>We're rich and fat and we've got all their nurses. Actually, I don't think any of us have said that we're really, really sorry about that.</p>An Irish correspondent quoted Bertie Ahern's verdict on the EU rebate negotiation: Mr Blair was "dishonest, petulant and untruthful". So how's the relationship with Mr Ahern?</p>"As good as it's ever been!" Mr Blair said cheerfully. Not a hint of sorrow, real or otherwise.</p>Sending Zimbabwean asylum-seekers back to Zimbabwe? We got a little closer. He was "not unsympathetic". Later he was "incredibly sympathetic".</p>But because they'd been through the court process and been rejected he couldn't be said to be really sorry, let alone really, really sorry.</p>Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun asked a question about negotiating away the farm rebate; could we be assured the rebate wouldn't be frozen? Given that we had been promised a referendum whatever happened in other countries' votes?</p>There followed an electrifying exchange.</p>"As I said," the Prime Minister clarified, "provided we had a constitution to vote on, we'd have a vote."</p>Kavanagh interrupted very quietly. "You didn't say that, Prime Minister."</p>The Prime Minister repeated himself and Kavanagh's voice, several decibels lower but the firmer for it, repeated flatly, "You didn't say that."</p>Yikes, I thought. We've never heard anything like that before.</p>I asked a question. I don't normally.</p>The security in the Downing Street Portakabin had built up a queue of us round the block. After we'd gone through their electronic arch and been examined with their wand we were interviewed. Our names were written down and our date of birth.</p>"It's under the Prevention of Terrorism Act," we were told. Mr Blair suggested it was caused by the Data Protection Act. Maybe, worse, it was both.</p>The process was without any operational significance at all. It was one of those procedural frivolities that we'll have to get used to more and more.</p>There will be a tipping point some time when the country is driven nuts by the idiotic, state-driven inanity that will be increasing exponentially as the political class gathers strength.</p>Intuitively, the Prime Minister answered the question in the context of ID cards, but not before saying: "I'm really, really sorry you were kept waiting."</p>I like to think he meant it.</p><a href=""></a> </p>