surinenglish

Saying sorry

Some people find saying sorry notoriously difficult - particularly leading politicians as if they believe there is no way, even if they know they are wrong, that they dare admit it. It may undermine the image they want to portray because they fear that others, who also find it hard to say sorry, will see them as weak and rudderless.

All the major religions speak of the need to admit our own failures. Excellence in leadership demands integrity and humility, it needs to know when it is time to say sorry, not least because if our leaders won't say sorry, what kind of unforgiving, blame-based society do they plan to lead?

Most unusually all 118 bishops of the Church of England, last week, agreed a declaration saying that the current tenor of the political debate is "not worthy of our country".

"We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen... We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes."

Calling people names, suggesting that laws, made by parliament are 'surrender bills', that the Supreme Court of the UK is not only wrong, but is an agent of remainers, all undermine the trust in our democracy and our courts. Repeatedly lying, or at least failing to tell the whole story, should never be the stuff of prime ministers, presidents or any other leader.

These things are wrong and everyone, but particularly the people who ask for our vote, should admit their failures and say sorry when they get something wrong.

Humility is a strength, not a weakness. The day that lying becomes acceptable, inflamed language becomes the norm and the unanimous, considered opinion of eleven of the most senior judges in the UK is labelled as 'wrong' is a dangerously sad day for law and democracy and extremists will use it to justify threats and violence.

The UK is deeply polarised. MPs' families are threatened and judges are called traitors, which can only increase that polarisation. Such talk may aim to bounce the UK out of the EU, but at what price for the citizens? If we leave in a storm the subsequent voyage is going to be very uncomfortable.

Reconciliation between Leavers and Remainers, whatever happens, will take a long time. Bluster, blame and bombastic bad-language just make things worse.

Deep in the culture of the UK and of Spain are the words of sorry in the Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.