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OPINION - Boris Johnson: Please accept my [carefully worded and painfully lawyered] apology

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A leader took to the airwaves today to say sorry for wrongdoing. The apology was swift, it seemed sincere, and he even won some praise on social media for his honesty.

The person in question was Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief executive of Ovo Energy, who apologised for what he called his company’s “ridiculous” advice emailed to customers suggesting how they could keep costs down and stay warm over winter.

One recommendation included “doing a few star jumps,” another hugging your pet. Fitzpatrick admitted he felt “really embarrassed” and simply said “I apologise.”

Boris Johnson’s apology in the House of Commons this afternoon barely achieved any of this, and spoke little of his personal responsibility.

OK, his mistake was somewhat more serious that an ill-judged piece of advice – and I didn’t hear the Ovo boss come out in support of a windfall tax. But the contrast in styles was sharp.

The Prime Minister claimed that while the Number 10 garden party “technically” fell within the guidance at the time, he personally attended it because he “believed implicitly this was a work event” but that “with hindsight” he should have made everyone go inside.

As the barrister Adam Wagner points out in a must-read Twitter thread, the Prime Minister’s apology was to the millions of people who “wouldn’t see it that way”. In other words, this situation is partly (wholly?) our fault for misinterpreting his actions.

Johnson’s performance at PMQs – politely thanking contributions that called for his resignation – reminded me a little of Tony Blair’s so-called ‘masochism strategy’ in the run up to the Iraq War and during the 2005 general election campaign.

This was the idea that Blair would (and did) deliberately confront hostile critics – including the general public – on television so he could be shouted at. It worked, to the extent that Labour won re-election. It is less clear whether Johnson has such a strategy.

So, sure, let’s see what Sue Gray’s report says, though I wouldn’t get too excited given this Government’s dreadful record on transparency e.g. wiping text messages and in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Ultimately, it is hard to see how this level of sustained public fury – in combination with falling disposable household income – can be combatted, even with the world’s best apology. Perhaps he should just send the country flowers.

*Just about to hit ‘send’ update – Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross has called on the Prime Minister to resign*

In the comment pages, Ayesha Hazarika writes that the Prime Minister has demeaned his office and the Tories must now decide his fate. She also pens a moving tribute to Jack Dromey MP, who passed away on Friday aged 73.

Our leader column gives Johnson another good kicking, while in a change of pace, City Editor Oscar Williams-Grut suggests that sometimes mayonnaise is just mayonnaise.

And finally, our chief restaurant critic Jimi Famurewa reviews Warehouse in Covent Garden. His thoughts? While the planet-healing intentions are admirable, this new opening is almost too eco for its own good.

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