Sorry – it’s a complicated word

The art of saying sorry – it’s a tough one. Apologise like Lou Vincent, and win plaudits left, right and centre. Apologise like Aaron Gilmore, and everything just gets worse.

It’s been an odd time lately for apologies.

David Cunliffe of course apologised for being a man, was lauded by the feminists, dragged over the coals by most of the male population (including moi), and is now back-pedalling and regretting his choice of words.

Which didn’t stop him apologising earlier this week for taking a three day holiday and for wearing a red scarf too often. Thankfully, he stopped short of apologising for spending two days ill with the flu, but by then everyone was already laughing at him regardless. Sometimes you just need to suck it up, bite back the sorry-you-don’t-mean and say, “Screw you, I had a three day holiday. I think most New Zealanders don’t care that the Leader of the Opposition had some time off. Get over it. And I like my red f*!king scarf. The weather’s cold, it keeps me warm, and I like how it looks. If I want fashion tips, I’ll go see Colin Mathura-Jeffree.”

On the opposite end of the sorry spectrum is John Key, as he’s pressed for an apology to Tania Billingsley. Back on 3 July, he would have apologised to her if he’d known her name, which of course wasn’t in the public domain at that time. On Monday though, despite her name being well and truly out in the open, no apology. Apparently Mr Key only apologies if there’s a serious reason for him to so.

I don’t understand quite why Mr Key is so unwilling to now apologise.

Firstly, there’s no way that any Government inquiry is going to be prejudiced by an apology. Apologising for the stress that Ms Bllingsley went through as a result of discovering that her alleged attacker had been allowed to leave New Zealand, and apologising for any perception that the Government didn’t give a damn about her, is not going to pre-judge any findings that inquiry head John Whitehead may make.

Secondly, it’s just bad politics. Key said he’d apologise if he knew her name. Now he won’t. It looks defensive and mean-spirited, and it looks like you can’t take him on his word.

‘Mean-spirited’ is perhaps rather an important word here. Cameron Slater of course ripped into Ms Billingsley on his blog, attacking her for having a political motive to her decision to put her name into the public arena and tell her story. Perhaps Mr Key feels the same sour grapes, which might explain his sudden about-face on the apology issue.

Whatever his reasons, his ongoing lack of an apology is doing him no favours.


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