Playing the blame game

March 4, 2009

President Barack Obama had barely settled into in the White House before he was happy to admit he had “screwed up” over one of his choices for a cabinet job after Tom Daschle withdraw his nomination as health secretary over an income tax controversy.

Even Britain’s leading bankers were moved to apologise to parliament last month over the sector’s indiscretions in the boom years.

But sorry is clearly not a word in Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s political lexicon, even though he was Chancellor for 10 years and arguably his “light touch” approach to the economy created the environment for  the current economic mess we are in.

Brown is happy to talk of the need for humility, but that’s as far as he will go. He reminds you of a cyclist caught doping, endlessly pleading their innocence, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Whether Brown believes an act of contrition is simply unnecessary as he has done nothing wrong or that to say the word “sorry” would provide the opposition Conservatives with a stick to beat him mercilessly ahead of a general election is unclear.

Commentator Jonathan Freedland in Wednesday’s Guardian makes the case that until Brown admits some degree of culpability for Britain’s economic woes the Labour Party will not get a hearing at the next election.

Why are politicians so loath to say sorry? And could Brown revive his electoral hopes if he does accept fault for Britain’s economic crisis?

10 comments

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I think the lack of an apology is something to do with the size of Brown’s head and the thickness of his hide.

Big heads and thick hides are of course pre-requisites for a politician, which explains their inability to see any need to say sorry. Obama will be the same when the media love affair is over.

An apology will make no difference to Brown’s electoral hopes. He’s belly up. Bring on the clean-up squad to sort out the mess, just as on every occasion before when Labour got the old heave-ho.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Its too late – Brown encouraged the entire country to borrow and spend on his promises of ever growing unearned riches – saying sorry a year after everything fell apart won’t cut much ice with anyone but die hard supporters.

Posted by edward green | Report as abusive

No political faction ever gets things perfect. Recalling Black Wednesday etc under the Tories, I think we would have arrived at this mess a lot faster had we been able to grow from the mess they originally left. New Labour was never going to be the magic wand people wanted but they did yield hope, (bring improved winter payments for OAPs, subsidised travel and making more families consider university as an option (even if they’ve messed up the how to get there part)). Unfortunately it seems most people cannot think for themselves or act in moderation. Human beings by large are greedy and insecure and unless people take responsibility for themselves we’ll always be going round in these circles. Of course, it will help if our leaders show an improved example. Even accepting they could have done things another way would acknowledge they are willing to learn from mistakes, rather than merely masaging their overpaid egoes.

Posted by Kimberley Ford | Report as abusive

Brown may offer an “We are sorry your train has been delayed, due to a cow on the track” type apology. He is a megalomaniac incapable of admitting his contribution to the disaster or accepting any of the blame.

He can squirm as much as he wants but nothing and nobodies going to save him. He’s toast.

Posted by John Evans | Report as abusive

Well done Kimberley – I haven’t had such a good laugh in ages – you have a brilliant sense of humour.

Posted by edward green | Report as abusive

Brown is in denial, as were the heads of certain banks.

The bankers are primarily responsible for the mess, since financial instruments is their business.

Brown, as custodian of the regulatory framework and his deficit budgeting, is equally responsible.

There are other bit players – over-optimistic borrowers, dodgy intermediaries, weak regulators (who presumably regulated as instructed by the government).

Fortunately, people are now increasingly seeing Brown’s culpability in all this.

The question is, will he go down in history as a failed PM who knew what was going on (by acknowledging some responsibility) or as a failed PM who didn’t (by not acknowledging).

The longer he delays, the more anything he does say will look like political expediency rather than honesty.

He’s a dead man walking “leading” a dead government walking.

Posted by Michael o'Carriage | Report as abusive

I imagine that G Brown, in the face of ever worsening economic news, will eventually make a belated apology of sorts, but the only thing that can save him is the least likely to happen: clear evidence, before the end of the year, that the recession has ended as a result of his actions.

Posted by Daniel O'Donoghue | Report as abusive

Both apologies and actions required. He was at the helm of UK finances for 10 years, asleep at the wheel, recent FSC sessions have revealed all sorts of shortcomings.

And also recent comments indicating a complete lack of sincerity:

The Prime Minister is on record as saying at his Press Conference on 18 Feb 2009:

………. we need a regulatory transformation so that people can feel that their savings and their deposits are safe. ……… That is why we are saying in this document that changes that we make will have to apply to all jurisdictions round the world.

Meanwhile thousands of innocent savers with Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Isle of Man ( a UK dependancy) have been deprived of their hard earned savings. See http://www.ksfiomdepositors.org/

We now await Mr Brown to reveal whether he will walk the talk, or does he simply lie when it suits his own purpose.

Posted by Ian Davison | Report as abusive

I think it’s time for him to go off and find an international legacy problem to solve before it’s too late.
He needs to plan his retiement like Blair did by finding an issue he was the least suited to solve ( like Blair in the Middle East).

How about Iceland for Brown?

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive

The West’s politicians (and especially Brown) have thrived for years telling us all how well off we are – vote for us because you’ve never had it so good. But anybody (including countries) can be very well off if allowed to borrow money they cannot afford to pay back. The current crisis has about as much to do with bankers as murder rates have to do with kitchen knife manufacturers.

The truth is that we have all been living beyond our means for a very long time. We are not “better off” than previous generations, we have mortgaged the kitchen sink (the kitchen sink of our little girl’s doll’s house – which is broken and made of toxic lead – pre-1930s in fact).

We now need to go through a period of about ten years of excruciating pain. Paying back national debt, lowering taxes (because god knows the government has shown itself utterly incapable of spending our money properly) and not buying houses or cars unless we have at least a 30% deposit (because they can go down as well as up).

If the current government personally undertakes to pay back any of the country’s entire annual national output that they have pumped into the banks, which is not recouped, I will gladly accept an apology from any of them – even from Mandy!

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive