There is a new vogue for national leaders to apologise for historical events and actions by their country, even when they themselves can have no personal responsibility, because the events took place before they were born, or at least when they were in no position to influence the outcome.
Gordon Brown was a babe in arms when the child migrant policy started, and was still a young man when it ended. He was not responsible for it. He didn’t agree to it. He had no part in it. Therefore an apology (as opposed to an expression of regret) is both meaningless and mawkish. Given that it amounts to little more than fine words (I have not heard that either Kevin Rudd in Australia, who has already apologised, or Gordon Brown, who is expected to apologise, has proposed any practical measure to support the aging child migrants), an apology could be seen as a rather cynical attempt to generate a feel-good factor at little or no cost.
We have seen pressure for equally meaningless apologies over slavery (though no one suggests that a British Prime Minister should claim credit for the brave and sustained actions of the Royal Navy in the 18th Century in closing down the trade). Should we now look to President Sarkozy to apologise for the Norman Conquest, or Prime Minister Berlusconi to apologise for the Roman invasion of Britain? Where does this stop?
The child migration policy was an outrage against defenceless children, in defiance of the principles of freedom and democracy. But it is absurd for our present Prime Minister to apologise for it.
… nor should Gordon apologise for his handwriting ….
Gordon Brown has taken a lot of stick in the Sun, from the mother of Jamie Janes, for sending her a hand-written letter of condolence which contained (she said) many spelling mistakes — though to others most just looked like poor hand-writing from a man who, after all, has only one eye.
I rarely have a good word for Gordon Brown, but I think there is something rather admirable in a workaholic Prime Minister taking time out to send handwritten letters of condolence to the families of fallen soldiers, and I think the attacks on his handwriting and minor errors are ungracious. Indeed they may well be counter-productive, since they seem to be generating a sympathy vote.
…. but he has much else to apologise for.
Gordon should not apologise for things he never did. But there are many things he has done for which an apology would be in order. Sending our troops to war on a peacetime budget, for a start, and failing to take the war seriously and form a War Cabinet. Sending troops into danger without flak jackets, in unprotected Snatch Land-Rovers. Failing to provide the helicopter support that would have saved lives, and that commanders in the field called for. And constantly telling us that the troops would get all they needed and all they asked for, when everyone could see that that was a lie.
And more generally for destroying our pension system, selling our gold reserves at the bottom of the market, leaving our country over-borrowed in the face of a global recession.
I say to Gordon: don’t apologise for the things you never did, and for which you are not responsible. But we’d all like to hear some apologies for those things which you actually did, and for which you carry a heavy burden of responsibility.
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