Tuesday 6 December 2011


First, let me apologise. No, sorry, let me apologise. Forsooth, my apologies, you first. And so on...

Oh, happy days, when the first instinct of an English gentleman was to seek a pardon even before an offence, to atone before action, to beg forgiveness for a crime yet to be committed. Where did it all go wrong? Today the first recourse seems to be to take offence where no wrong has been perpetrated, if necessary on behalf of others who may not even know they are being thus abused. Indeed an entire industry (god knows we need some, but surely not this?) has sprung up out of a very un-British, some would say entirely foreign, tendency to seek blames and hence claims.

So, how very refreshing to hear about a resurgence in manners. I was watching the delectable yummy-mummy Sophie Raworth this evening. (yes, I know, I'm sooo predictable but a BOACA* like me is helpless against the charms of almost the entire cast of BBC news ladies. Sorry!) No, nothing sinister, she was on the telly; I wasn't, like, outside her house or anything. (Been nowhere near since the injunction, your honour.)

As I say, she was presenting a Panorama docu-ette about supermarket pricing, while I was eating my dinner and she revealed some not-surprising but surprisingly ubiquitous price fiddles. So what? I thought, serves thick shoppers right for not being numerate, but I was missing the point. Confronted with their shenanigans the supermarkets' PR machines simply said, "Whoops, sorry-oh!" and all was well. No prosecutions, honest mistake old chaps, won't happen again.

Except it not only did happen again... and again, but it will keep on happening. Because while the general population may have forsaken ready remorse, have you noticed how quickly the visible elements of government and commerce have taken to a public rending of garments, wringing of caps and uttering of reparations? While all the time crossing all available fingers, naturally.

Yes, we know we fucked your economy. Sorry. Yes I know we spent all your money. Sorry about that. Yes I know you don't want to expatriate any more powers to Brussells but, you know, it's already happened, what can we say? [Bambi eyes] Soooorrry!

The good old British apology was once a beautiful thing. Designed to pour oil on troubled waters and set the scene for a rational discussion and a settlement of disputes without resort to fisticuffs. When wee Ronnie Corbett said sorry he did it without an inch of malice in his little Caledonian heart. Somehow, when the word is uttered by the likes of Tesco, a little bit of my England dies.

The further up the greasy pole of social order the word is bandied about the less it really means and when the likes of Blair, Brown, Balls, Mandelson, Cameron, Clegg et al get around to using that word you'll know that hell has indeed frozen over and all hope has been abandoned.

My sincere apologies.

(*BOACA = Bloke of a certain age)

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