Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Politicians 'need to apologise'

Lord Malloch Brown
Lord Malloch Brown says critics who get apologies "jump all over politicians"

The government and opposition parties should say "sorry" for mistakes made over the economy, Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch Brown has said.

He told BBC Radio 4's Start the Week such a move was "incumbent" after the failures of "light regulation" of banks and other financial institutions.

"I just cannot get over the fact that British politicians don't know how to say sorry," he said.

The Conservatives said the remarks showed "divisions" in the Labour Party.

Lord Malloch Brown's comments come after Chancellor Alistair Darling called last week for the government to show "humility" and accept "collective responsibility" for the crisis.

'New to politics'

Schools Secretary Ed Balls - a former Treasury minister and economic adviser to Gordon Brown when he was chancellor - has admitted the risks to the economy from not having stronger regulation of the City were "underestimated".

The prime minister has repeatedly been asked whether he will apologise for his role.

On his trip to the US last week, he agreed the government had to accept its share of responsibility but reiterated that the problem was global, as the "whole global financial system seized up".

And I think it's perhaps incumbent on us all to say... sorry
Lord Malloch Brown

Lord Malloch Brown, who entered the government in 2007 having been deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, told Start the Week: "As someone rather new to British politics I have to say probably, and probably I'll regret saying it, I just cannot get over the fact that British politicians don't know how to say sorry.

"I think they don't know how to say sorry because the people who demand they say it then descend on them... and jump all over them and don't accept the apology, but use it to sort of force further concessions."

Lord Malloch Brown said Mr Darling had "come pretty close" to saying sorry.

'Mistakes'

He added: "And I think there has to be a period of reflection and, frankly, it was bipartisan decision-making by all sides that got this exuberant capitalism with its light regulation going in the City of London.

"And I think it's perhaps incumbent on us all to say... sorry."

For the Conservatives, shadow chancellor George Osborne said: "Yet another senior minister has now said Gordon Brown should say sorry for the economic mistakes he made during the ten years he was chancellor, yet the prime minister still insists he has 'nothing to apologise for'.

"These divisions in the Labour Party over the fundamental question of what went wrong means they remain part of the problem, not the solution.

"For Gordon Brown, sorry still seems to be the hardest word."

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