Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Not sorry at all.

FORGIVE me for saying so, but the act of apologising for things has got all out of whack.

It seems we've begun to confuse penitence with punishment, and public forgiveness with acts of public self-flagellation.

So Bob Diamond has been praised for turning down a £20m bonus when he had to resign for overseeing a department which fiddled its lending rates and cost Barclays customers trillions. He's going to struggle by on a year's salary of a mere £2m, although his notice period is six months.

Chancellor Gidiot is under pressure to say sorry for claiming Ed Balls had told the bank to do it, as though that would make anyone like either of them more.

On Sunday Andy 'Never Mind' Murray broke down in tears after failing to win Wimbledon and was within a ginger neck whisker of saying sorry to the watching millions for letting them down.

And even the Archbishop of Canterbury has joined the wave of apologies, saying his latest botched compromise over the issue of women bishops which made all sides furious meant everyone involved needed to "feel appropriate penitence" as he did.

Tiger Woods spent 13 minutes saying sorry for having lots of sex behind his wife's back. Mel Gibson grovelled publicly after saying 'Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world' in 2006 but it changed nothing - within six years he was accused of punching his girlfriend, calling Jews 'ovendodgers' and had to apologise to a screenwriter for screaming at him.

The principal reason for this new fetish isn't because we're any more plagued with self-doubt than we used to be, more conscious of public anger or even wary about being sued. It's mainly because people think that once you say sorry everyone forgets what you did.

As with so many things the finger can be pointed at Tony Blair for starting this dirty little habit. He apologised, variously, for the Irish potato famine of the 19th century, the slave trade, scrapping the Royal Yacht Britannia, the fox-hunting bill, and not doing something about Robert Mugabe.

One minute he feels great sorrow for the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and the next he says the civilian deaths were someone else's fault.

Thanks to him we now have people saying sorry for something every five minutes, when they're mainly just sorry at being found out.

Would Bob Diamond have turned down his bonus if he knew about the fiddling at his bank but no-one else did? Would Tiger Woods have called a press conference to reveal he was a sex addict if the National Winkuirer hadn't tracked down his women? Was Tony Blair sorry for so many things because it took attention off the things he wasn't sorry about?

And never mind them. We all do it - we say sorry to stop an argument with loved ones even when we think we're in the right, when someone else steps on our foot, or when we ask someone why they haven't done something they should.

And because it's used too much it's lost its value. Proper regret is hard to believe because we hear the words used too often and too cheaply to be of much use when we really need to express it.

It makes any public apology - even an honest one - empty and meaningless. Even if the chancellor apologises for making claims about the opposition there is not much evidence for, none of us will think better of anyone involved.

The only answer is to keep the word 'sorry' for when we really are - for all of us, from the humbled office worker all the way up to the Prime Minister, to say it only when we really mean it.

Bob Diamond will be sorry only when he needs a job and can't get one, like the 2.61million unemployed. That's never going to happen, so I don't want to hear him say it and I'm less than impressed he thinks sorrow is the same as stopping a financial transaction.

The best we can hope for is that the bankers who bear responsibility are caught, prosecuted, and jailed where the only markets they can fiddle will be the 10-year inter-wing lending rate for snout.

Gidiot and Ed Balls should both be sorry for lots of things but no-one has enough time to hear it, so they can simply apologise for wasting our time with their schoolgirl spats when they ought to be suggesting ways of making sure the banks don't spank us all again, then crack on with it.

Andy Murray and his detractors need to realise he was one of the last two in the greatest tennis Grand Slam in the world and made the best player of all time break a sweat to win the title, and that is worth a fist-punch and a "BOOYAH!" in anyone's book.

Tiger Woods has to apologise for cheating to his wife and family, not us, Mel Gibson needs to live in a kibbutz for a year, the one thing Tony Blair does not need to regret is the foxhunting bill and the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to woman the hell up.

Save the sorries for special occasions - for an upset loved one, an angry police officer, for the judicial inquiries that will probably be set up into every trade in the country before long. Save it for when you start a war or lose all the money, and maybe then we'll believe it when it's said.

Otherwise one day you'll find out what 'sorry' really means, and no-one will listen to you say it.

If the chap in the red coat would just stay still...