• News Feeds
Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 08:08 UK
'Our error'

President Bill Clinton apologises
Bill Clinton admitted mistakes in US foreign policy

"Mistakes have been made" has become the mantra of the age, it seems.

Ministers, business leaders and economists have been forced to own up to error by the sheer scale of the economic crash and the undeniable inexcusability of certain expense claims. But if they were expecting quick forgiveness, it hasn't come.

In May, Gordon Brown admitted that mistakes were made by MPs in their use of House of Commons expenses.

And the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, recently wrote that the NHS needs to admit its failures, apologise more often "and needs to learn to mean it".

Some public figures find it easier than others to own up to errors. Bill Clinton, though famously reticent about his private life, still admitted that his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was "inappropriate" and that "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned". And in the political sphere he apologised for American policy in Rwanda and El Salvador.

Philosopher Julian Baggini has written an article for Demos calling for a more honest relationship with error-making in public. "More mature mistake culture is particularly important when it comes to politics," he writes.

"On the one hand, politics is one of the spheres of human activity where mistakes are least likely to be admitted. At the same time, failure in politics is often inevitable".

So, do you think that public figures should admit their mistakes? Or is it better to observe Neville Chamberlain's old maxim: "Never complain, never explain, never apologise"?

Charles Rennie Mackintosh made the following comment on mistakes: "There is hope in honest error, not in the icy perfection of the mere stylist."
John Stather, Stoke on Trent

Of course politicians make errors, just like everybody else. The difference is that when we make individual errors, the fallout is confined to ourselves and anybody else who is directly involved. When politicians make mistakes large numbers of, or even the entire population, cops it. While government is necessary to address issues that, as individuals, we can not - defence and foreign affairs spring immediately to mind - their power over the rest of our lives should be severely curtailed. This would let us live our lives the way we choose and learn to accept the consequences of our actions. It would also, at a stroke, slash public spending by reducing bureaucracy and sparing us the consequences of wasteful government cock-ups.
James Francis, Tintagel, Cornwall

Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Phone number (optional):

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

Ajibola Lewis (right) with her daughter Police custody 'scandal'
A charity calls for a public inquiry into the number of people who die while being held by police.

Christmas tree Mass Observing the season
The spirits of Christmases past, as seen by the British people

Children selling low-value goods at the roadside are a familiar sight in Liberia Catch-22
Evan Davis examines Liberia's attempt to rebuild its economy following the recent civil war.



Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific