One simple law that could be introduced to clean up politics and many other institutions, would be to make apologising illegal. Because when politicians, for example, apologise, they’re not sorry at all, they’re doing it as a strategy.
They’ve discussed it with their team and worked out the likely 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 during 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 his wife catches him in bed with someone else, he’ll say: “Sorry, Miriam, I now recognise it was foolish to have pledged fidelity when we married. Now could you wait in the kitchen while I carry on the grown-up business here with my PR officer.”
There could be serious implications if the Clegg philosophy spreads to other areas. Court cases will end with a judge telling the accused: “It seems clear from CCTV footage and many witnesses that you kicked an old-aged pensioner in order to steal her bag of chips. But I can find no evidence that you ever promised not to do it, so you are free to go, and I warn you not to promise to this court that you’ll never do it again, or you’ll simply be storing up trouble for later.”
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.”