‘Never apologise, never explain’

I have not gathered you here today to discuss the media. Not when there are politicians to boot up the arse

by Dec 02, 2012 No Comments

‘Never apologise, never explain.’ I recall the dictum well. It was an unofficial rule, passed on with a tap of the nose.

I cannot recall from which profession or sphere it permeated. Oh yes, it comes to me now. It was journalism. Sorry about that. Allow me to explain.

Actually, I can’t. I never quite grasped the meaning. Never your man for nuance, if it ain’t staring me in the face and waving a flag, I don’t get it. Bending my wobbly brain to the matter now, I suppose it must have referred to whatever one wrote: don’t apologise for it; you don’t have to explain it either.

That’s pretty good. I think I’ll get it translated into Latin and tattooed on my forehead. My original bafflement must have been occasioned by the intelligence that newspapers did apologise, when they got something factually wrong, and that a major part of their mission was explaining the world to the lieges.

However, Leveson or no Leveson, I have not gathered you here today to discuss the media. Not when there are politicians to boot up the arse.

Apologies and explanations are all the rage at the moment. Indeed, rage is all the rage at the moment. It’s all going on, all kicking off.

I warned you earlier that the caterwauling boorishness in the chamber was getting out of hand, and now it’s all over the papers.

Apologies first, and the First Eck was forced to apologise for getting a figure wrong in an answer about college funding. The incident, according to the opposition, had brought about a crisis in the very fabric of the universe.

However, that wasn’t the important thing.

The important thing, as a Labour source told the papers, was to get yonder Salmond in the headlines for being dishonest which is, of course, a lie. The strategy worked and foreshadows the dastardly period that the next couple of years promises to be.

It is bringing the Parliament into disrepute.

Some of you will have computers, and if you plug your Google into these, you’ll find wild conspiracy theories prospering. One of these is that the behaviour of some politicians at Holyrood is deliberately bad so that the whole place will be tarred with the same brush and the peasantry will then call for a return to London rule.

The fundamental flaw in the theory is that Westminster isn’t much better. Actually, I don’t know why I say that. It isn’t really true.

Westminster has more class than Holyrood, bolstered no doubt by centuries of tradition and a settled, ancient feel to proceedings. We’re talking Harrods versus Poundland here.

That’s not really true either. But I’m heeding my new dictum never to explain. Still, there’s a kernel of truth in the most base generalisation and, viewed from this bargain basement, Westminster isn’t as hateful as Holyrood.

It is, perhaps, a Celtic thing, but more likely to do with the calibre of statesmen and women. Viewing the Scottish Parliament from day one, it was clear that some successful candidates were not ready for it, that they’d thought it would be just a step up from the cooncil.

Some, indeed, were probably told, “Just stand, you’ll never get in anyway”, and found themselves propelled into power by the list system. There are, to put it another way, a lot of amateurs in the joint.

That should settle down, particularly with the passage of time, the reality of growing influence, and the whole thing of becoming a proper parliament, and not just the sop to the Scotch that, originally, it was intended to be.

With more powers will come better politicians.

In the meantime, well, there may be no conspiracy but the theory about making the place seem chaotic may hold some water or similarly constituted liquid. Its purpose may be to undermine not the Parliament as such, which would be undemocratic, but the government of the day, thus constituting a party-political plot. However, I believe it is more constitutional than party-political.

As for public apologising, this was all the fashion a few years ago.

There were demands that somebody apologise for all sorts of horrors from the past. Slavery, colonialism, and Culloden got bandied about.

I didn’t mind, while thinking some of it pointless and some worthy of support for at least reminding folk of the issues. Those against, who got their knickers in a twist about ‘political correctness’, struck me as dodgy.

However, being deluged in apologies can dilute their import.

No American TV or movie drama is complete without its significant moment of apology. It’s all being done to death.

Observers are saying, now that the First Eck has apologised, perhaps it’s time the opposition did too, for alleged errors that were not about mere statistics but about serious matters such as hospital beds and rape cases. But enough already.

Even if apologies were forthcoming for these specious claims, they would not be sincere.

Perhaps the new rule should be: sometimes apologise; sometimes explain. Not a great tattoo for the forehead, but pragmatic advice never is (except, perhaps, ‘This way up’).

Since last time… went to an SPL game for the first time this season and actually rather enjoyed it … have decided to set aside an hour for any car journey across Edinburgh from now on … lost so much weight I’m having to buy new troosers.

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