Politics – why can’t we admit mistakes? – Paul Bernal’s blog

Last night and this morning I had a somewhat extended argument on Twitter with someone who I assume is a Lib Dem activist, writes Paul Bernal in his blog.

The argument started off being about my frustration (and even anger) about the passing of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIP) in those few short days in the summer (see my blog post here – a shabby process for a shady law). I was annoyed, and said so, that the erstwhile champion of privacy, and key behind the defeat of the Snoopers’ Charter, my own MP Julian Huppert, had in effect helped push through the law in double-quick time without any chance for discussion. It was, in my view, a mistake on Julian’s part.

That just started the argument. By suggesting that Julian had made a mistake – and in my view a pretty egregious one – I was, according to my accuser, casting aspersions on Julian’s motivations and integrity. I wasn’t, in my opinion, doing that at all. I respect Julian very much, and know that he has great integrity and that his intentions are good. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t think he made a mistake over DRIP. I still do – and I have a feeling that he will come to realise that. I may well be wrong, of course – because even if it was a mistake, we seem to have come to a position in politics where we can’t really admit mistakes. At best, we can make half-hearted apologies, generally apologies that we were ‘misunderstood’. The ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way’ kind of apologies.

Following the Lib Dem conference brings this home in a big way. Nick Clegg’s famous ‘apology’ over tuition fees – immortalised in the Auto-tuned version here – was only an apology for a promise, not really an apology for any action at all. The mistake was the promise, not the real actions. The much bigger actions – the much bigger possible mistakes – are never acknowledged, let alone apologised for. The possibility, in particular, that it might have been a mistake for the Lib Dems to go into coalition with the Tories at all, is so dangerous as to be impossible to mention. And yet it might have been a mistake. Things might have been very different if they had not gone into coalition.

Read the rest of this article on Paul Bernal’s blog.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
bringing you the best of the blogs!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:



  1. Steve October 8, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I think it’s arrogance tbh. Politicans egos won’t allow them to admit mistakes – North Vietnam is a classic example of pride driving the political classes to stubbornly cling to a mistake.

  2. Guy Ropes October 9, 2014 at 8:38 am - Reply

    David Aaronovitch summed it up rather well in 2009 when he said, “Our leaders might be more honest with us if we were more likely to give them credit for being open about harsh reality”.

    • Mike Sivier October 9, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

      That’s a very good point – especially now.

Leave A Comment