There are times when almost everyone says sorry. If we accidentally shut a door on someone, for example, we apologise. If we step on someone’s foot, we apologise. If we poke someone in the eye by mistake, we apologise.
Usually, our apologies are immediate and unequivocal: we didn’t mean to do it, but we did, and now we’re sorry.
This week Patrick Mercer MP wholeheartedly apologised for telling a young IDF soldier that she looked like a “bloody Jew”.
Words and phrases like that poke the Jewish community in both eyes, stand on both its feet and slam the door in its face.
We were pleased to break the news of his apology as an exclusive, but – if truth be told – we were left utterly confused by the whole sorry episode.
Why, if most genuine apologies are immediate, did Mercer say sorry five days after his abrasions were aired on national television, and only then at the instigation of this newspaper? Why did he say it? What did he mean? When will we stop hearing politicians conveying underlying anti-Semitism? And what does a “bloody Jew” look like anyway?
In part, it doesn’t matter. Mercer has said he will not stand in the 2015 elections, having been caught “abusing his position” in an undercover sting.
It is a very sad end to the distinguished career of a decorated soldier and former war reporter, so it’s not surprising he’s sorry. So are we.