by Stephen Tall on February 13, 2013
Before I begin this brief rant, I want to make it clear that I’m actually a fan of Ian Birrell’s writing: it’s passionate, informed, provocative. He’s not afraid to slam his colleagues in the media for their group-think on issues like Africa (negative stereotyping) or the NHS (ignoring its serious flaws).
Which is why when I saw his piece in the Daily Mail today – Why does no one ever take the blame any more? – I was so irritated by its pathetic opening:
When Nick Clegg dropped into Hampshire to boost his party’s campaign in the crucial Eastleigh by-election, he spoke passionately about the virtues his party had brought to coalition government. … it was natural for reporters to ask if he would apologise for the behaviour of his Liberal Democrat colleague which caused this costly by-election, and corroded public trust in politicians even more. After all, Chris Huhne’s original offence may have been comparatively minor, but his lengthy cover-up could scarcely have been more serious: a senior Cabinet minister deceiving the police, the courts, the media and the electorate. Yet Clegg brushed aside any idea of apology, absurdly claiming that Huhne’s actions were a private matter. They may have been a private tragedy for his family, but here we had a man laying down laws for the country while lying to the criminal justice system and his voters in Eastleigh. Even if Clegg’s refusal to say sorry on behalf of his party was disappointing, sadly it did not come as a surprise.
Apparently, if I’m following Ian Birrell’s argument aright, Nick Clegg should apologise for Chris Huhne committing a speeding offence and lying about it. Worse than that, he thinks Nick Clegg should apologise on behalf of the Liberal Democrats for Chris Huhne’s actions.
Yes, that’s right: apparently Chris Huhne wasn’t solely and personally responsible for his behaviour. We all are. Nick Clegg, you and me. We’re all up to our necks in it for believing a man is innocent until proven guilty.
What rubbish. Chris Huhne did the wrong thing: he, and he alone, must answer to that.
What right has Ian Birrell got to suggest that Nick Clegg apologise on my behalf for something that is nothing to do with him, me or our party? If anyone should be saying sorry now, it’s Ian Birrell.
Meanwhile you might want to consider how credible it is for a journalist to write about political apologies and Nick Clegg in the same article and not remember to mention that Autotune remix – 2.2 million views so far, by the way.