Geoffrey Wheatcroft makes himself the latest in the very long line of those who aren't impressed by people regretting or apologizing for wrongs they weren't personally implicated in. This time it's the regret expressed by David Cameron over the Amritsar massacre of April 1919 that is the cause of complaint. The problem for Wheatcroft lies in Cameron's 'expressing his regrets for something which had never been his own responsibility or fault, and had happened long before. But the right occasion for condemning some outrage or injustice is at the time.' Yet Cameron wasn't saying 'Hey, I was at Amritsar etc.'; he was making a statement of regret on behalf of the country of which he is prime minister; and that is a perfectly valid public act, as I am not going to argue yet once more.
It gets worse, though. Over such meaningful statements of regret or apology Wheatcroft pretends to favour meaningless ones. He writes:
With all these lamentations, what we never hear from our lachrymose politicians are genuine palinodes or recantations for their own errors and crimes. Blair effortlessly apologises for the Great Famine more than 160 years ago. He has never apologised, and never will apologise, for taking us into a needless, unlawful and horrible war only 10 years ago, and doing so on mendacious claims.
But you can't really expect Blair to apologize for actions he, Wheatcroft, thinks were wrong and Blair doesn't; unless you believe apologies are due for what others, and not the person apologizing, construe as wrongs. In general this yields worthless apologies, of the kind 'Sorry if I offended someone'. Wheatcroft's is the real humbug. He obviously knows that to expect a Blair apology is not to the point (until such time as Blair changes his mind over Iraq, should that ever happen). What Wheatcroft is doing is insisting on the one true moral universe as defined by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.