Sunday, 15 November 2009

An apology for a prime minister

Gordon Brown, we learn today, is to apologise to the children who were sent to Australia over several decades to "begin new lives" - many of whom were mistreated, some of whom had living parents who were not consulted, or even informed. No doubt it will be valued by those affected who are still alive. Meanwhile, the government over which he presides continues - despite growing international concern - to lock up, sometimes for months at a time, around two thousand children each year, who have done nothing wrong except having parents identified by the Home Office as illegal immigrants.

Double standards? No, just politics.

It typifies what might be called the Tony Blair approach to apologising: only say sorry for things you're not actually responsible for, preferably things that happened decades or even centuries ago. That way you get to appear magnanimous and principled without admitting you've ever personally made any mistakes, and while carefully avoiding awkward questions about your own conduct. It's gesture politics at its most pointless and cynical, a quintessentially modern piece of shallowness (although I suppose it was Jesus who thought up the idea of crucifying yourself for other people's sins).

Anyway, now he's got into the habit, perhaps he could apologise for some of the things he can be said to have played a part in. Such as:

1. Selling off most of our gold reserves at the bottom of the market

2. Breaking his promise to hold a referendum on the EU constitution

3. Helping to turn Britain into the democratic world's most comprehensive surveillance state.

4. Abolishing the 10p tax rate - and then spending twice as much money trying to compensate for it

5. Claiming to have ended Boom and Bust

6. Destroying the British pensions industry with his 1997 stealth tax

7. Running up an unprecedented national debt

8. Thinking he could best communicate with the public via YouTube

9. Claiming that thanks to his careful stewardship, Britain was the best-placed of any major economy to weather the recession.

10. Letting Tony Blair become Labour leader in 1994, and then letting him have his way over Iraq

There are, of course, many other things for which Gordon Brown could say sorry. If they were all set down, I doubt the world would have room enough for all the books that would be filled.