On honesty

I heard Ed Miliband on Radio 4’s Today, and far from putting the past behind him, he has spectacularly re-focused media interest on the Iraq war. He talks about the need to be honest with the public about Iraq, implying others, many of whom he will have to continue working with who still feel they were correct in their judgment at the time, were less than honest.

On his own performance on Iraq, his “principled stand” still appears to be an unverifiable internal debate he had, and he even goes so far as to bring up collective responsibility as a reason for remaining silent on the issue of Iraq when he eventually was part of the government. His Iraq stand looks like nothing more than a political trick, rather than honesty.

Referring to David Miliband, Phillipe Sands recently said:

Miliband is a man of great ability. He would have earned considerable respect if he had said sorry for the war…

Which led to this comment by Norman Geras:

Sands may or may not be aware of this, but it is worth pointing out that a person can think they have been wrong about something, and even feel regret for having been wrong, but without thinking they owe anyone an apology for it.

There’s another aspect though, what is the point of an apology that is not given in good faith? If the apology is nothing more than a ritual statement wrung out of the Ed Miliband (or rather deployed as a tactic) to appease the liberal consensus on Iraq, then does it have value?

If you are one of the people still very angry about the war, perhaps with a bad case of Blair-hate, then you may be pleased with this apology and “honesty” from Ed Miliband. As a supporter of the war I don’t find Miliband’s apology heartfelt or genuine, and really wonder why the anti-war side would do so. It’s like an apology obtained from a child desperate to get out of your sight, rather than because they had seen the correctness of your argument about their behaviour.

Honesty appears to be telling people what they want to hear.

UPDATE: Here is one way Ed could have done it with dignity.