Five ways to style out a political apology

Five ways to style out a political apology

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After Theresa May’s well-received “soz” to the 1922 committee of MPs, we look at how politicians from Clinton to Cameron said sorry

1. The “Oops” – Theresa May on the snap election
After seven weeks bleating some of the stupidest campaign slogans yet to insult the British people (we’re looking at you, magical money tree), Theresa May made a surprisingly good speech to her fellow MPs. “I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it,” she promised – to loud cheers from a group who still hate her, but realised just in time that they hate Boris Johnson more.

 

2. The non-apology apology – Tony Blair
Is Tony Blair sorry about the Iraq war? He’s sorry that he planned it badly: “For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever know or believe.” But he still reckons getting rid of Saddam was a thumping good idea. “What I cannot and will not do is say we took the wrong decision.”

 

3. The too little, too late – Nick Clegg
Spotting that an entire generation of young people were quite pissed off with him after voting Liberal Democrat as a protest vote about university tuition fees – only for the Liberal Democrats to triple university tuition fees – the former Deputy Prime Minister tried a little charm. “When you’ve made a mistake, you should apologise,” he said. “But most importantly you’ve got to learn from your mistakes.” Which is why he probably won’t be doing any more video apologies after a heavily indebted student autotuned the clip.
4. The confessional – Bill Clinton
Caught out for shagging an intern and lying about it in 1998, the US President (those were the days) told a breakfast meeting of religious leaders that he had sinned, asking for forgiveness and speaking of repentance and even wanging in the Bible for good measure. While still managing, on account of his resting smirk face, to look like a massive shagger who would do it all again given half the chance.

 

5. The “Sorry that somebody else screwed up” – David Cameron
Our most apologetic Prime Minister to date made a sort of hobby of apologising for stuff his predecessors had screwed up, from Bloody Sunday to Hillsborough to the Amritsar massacre. But when he called a referendum on EU membership and lost, leaving a legacy of political chaos and economic uncertainty? “I wish I had won … I am sad about that,” he reflected, before skipping off into the private sector to charge six-figure sums for talking about it.
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Can we stop doing politics by numbers, please?

Can we stop doing politics by numbers, please?

VOTESBYWOMEN_V13From 10,000 new police to £350 million for the NHS, the random figures that politicians dream up aren’t helping anybody

Diane Abbott was criticised this morning for fumbling her figures on Labour’s promise of 10,000 new police officers. And rightly so – that number is ridiculous. How did the party decide that 10,000 were needed, rather than 9,999 – or 232.5? What will happen if they only find 8,012 viable candidates – will they have to import some from abroad?

The party can’t seem to stop pulling random round numbers out of its arse – just look at Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 Pledges to Transform Britain on the Labour website. First off, Jez is going to create a million good-quality jobs by investing £500 billion in infrastructure. Then he’ll build a million new homes, including half a million council homes. And now 10,000 more five-oh.

These arbitrary figures are a particularly bad look for Labour in its hard-left phase, with echoes of Stalin and his five-year plans. Or Dr Evil in blackmail mode. But they’re far from the only ones at it. Just think of the £350 million promised to the NHS by Brexiteers who said this was what EU membership cost us. Then denied it, in spite of the fact THEY WROTE IT ON A MASSIVE BUS AND DROVE IT AROUND THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

And let’s not forget it was David Cameron’s Tories who promised to cap net migration at tens of thousands, because: well, probably because it sounded good. Now the Conservatives are having to distance themselves from the pledge, realising they might need immigrants to pay inflated university fees, work in the NHS, and generally do stuff Brits can’t be bothered with.

Meanwhile the Lib Dems have found 3 million people who will be £2,500 a year worse off after Brexit. Wasn’t it going to be £4,300 according to George Osborne? And wasn’t that kind of “scaremongering” said to have been a vote-loser ahead of the referendum?

This is not to disagree that Brexit is likely to leave ordinary people worse off financially, or that we need more jobs, or new homes. The point is that when you try to get people on board with those issues, it’s not a great starting point to assume the electorate is too thick to find a decimal place.

Let’s raise the bar a little higher, dear leaders, and use figures that relate to our actual needs. Otherwise, as Diane Abbott found, it’s only you who will end up looking stupid.