It's only a little word, but who's big enough to say it?
"Mr Clegg! Mr Clegg! Are you going to apologise? Are you going to apologise? Why aren't you going to apologise Mr Clegg?..."
The questioner is one of the less appealing members of the journalistic profession, those who look as if they've eaten too much junk food, slept in their clothes, yet assume "the sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play" – to quote Jonathan Aitken – when it suits them. But even serial apologiser Nick Clegg isn't about to tell the country he's sorry for what Mr and Mrs Huhne got up to. Basically because he didn't do it. Mr Clegg's definitely sorry, and anyone looking at his accident-prone term of office might sympathise, but why should he "apologise"?
Because that's what people do. It is the fashion of the age, particularly in relation to something long ago, something the apologist can't be held responsible for. Apology-lite.
It's not worthless. It doesn't cure the hurt, it doesn't compensate for loss, but victims feel a knot deep in their stomach which can only be untied when someone finally acknowledges that their account of events was always true and just and that the opposition were wrong; were responsible; lied. More and more of these come to light: the outrage of sending unwanted children to Australia in the belief they were orphans; widespread child and sexual abuse; the beastly regime so vividly portrayed in the film The Magdalen Sisters where "fallen" Irish girls were literally imprisoned and enslaved.
But what I – and possibly you too – would like to see is an apology made while the offence is still raw, delivered by the person actually responsible. We've probably all got a list. Here's mine:
The obvious, the perma-tanned Tony Blair, plus the ubiquitous Alistair Campbell, and all those who stood by him as he mendaciously steered us into a war none of us wanted. It was a long journey from his second election, won on the slogan "Trust Tony", to his current image as a venal, self-interested smoothie earning a fortune by supposedly promoting international peace. But who now believes he told us the truth?
John Major, for not having the courage to throw out railway privatisation when he had the chance. Some privatisations have worked out, some are still a shambles, but the railways are a special case, taking a network which so desperately needed integrated management and scattering it to the four winds.
Mrs Thatcher is excused on the grounds of ill-health, but I'd still like to hear from what Spitting Image famously described as "the vegetables", her cabinet members who sat on their hands while our whole industrial and social structure was undermined for reasons of class warfare, short-term greed and personal spite.
Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. They've been awfully quiet haven't they? Looking at our blighted economic landscape it's the cruellest irony to think that Gordon Brown was once nicknamed Prudence. Googling Alistair Darling, the first entry you'll find is a puff for him as "The Perfect Speaker for Your Event" on topics including Economic Affairs. Full marks for brass neck, but how these two persuaded themselves that house-price inflation and uncontrolled lending, let alone the bank criminality they somehow didn't spot, wouldn't lead to tragedy is something they still haven't shared with us.
Let's remember ex-leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley. How skilfully he piloted our Unitary Authority into place until it was too late for the county to turn the tide, before swiftly taking to the boats himself. Cornwall Council came in on a confidence trick of public support, later corrected as 89% opposition, and still leaves a huge gap in public local representation.
And a word for a long-dead body, the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution, for their sloppily-worded Second Amendment. The right of Americans to bear arms in order to form a militia to defend the freedom of the state was what they meant. Pity they didn't say so.
Plus almost everyone currently describing themselves as comedians, Ant & Dec (for being Ant & Dec), and anyone who doesn't agree that Skyfall is one of the worst films ever to waste our time. All together now "Sorry..."
Who would you choose?