Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

What Is So Wrong with Saying Sorry?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

What Is So Wrong with Saying Sorry?

Article excerpt


I'M going to have a moan. So, since I'm going to be so grumpy, I'll start by apologising. Sorry. There you are. At a stroke I am out of step with the zeitgeist and entering rare territory, that of someone prepared to apologise, without being leaned on first.

It's not fashionable nowadays. In-the-news tax boss Dave Hartnett saw nothing to apologise for in the fact that 1.4 million people should expect unwelcome demands for tax unpaid not through any fault of theirs but because of a monumental cock-up on the Government's computer. Worms started to turn, and it appears no less a figure than Chancellor George Osborne told him to do the decent thing.

So he apologised, grudgingly, too late and with bad grace. Blimey. It didn't cost him a lot, did it? He wasn't saying: "Sorry guys, we won't charge you after all". He wasn't offering flexibility: "Our mistake. Pay when you like, no hurry."

He's still going to collect the dosh. In fact, I didn't see him apologise for the computer error, nor for the mind-boggling bureaucratic bungling that surrounded it: he merely apologised for his "insensitive" comments.

Insensitive? That understatement is like the famously offensive Basil Fawlty saying to an outraged guest "I'm sorry if I was a trifle brusque." The furious guest replies: "You were rude, Mr Fawlty. Rude!" Rude. I never met a nanny (or any nanny, for that matter) who actually uttered the iconic warning to her young charges: "We're not at home to Mr Rude." But maybe we need her now: a new mission for the popular Nanny McPhee, perhaps.

It's not just rudeness. The refusal to apologise is also a denial of responsibility. If I'm manoeuvring in a car park and accidentally scrape another vehicle, my insurance company forbids me to admit the fault. We all live and work under such prohibitions. You daren't bake a cake for the church bazaar without taking out public liability insurance.

To be fair, if I were the CEO of BP with an oil rig spewing zillions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I might think twice before holding my hands up and saying: "Whoops! …

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