I have put the word 'apologises' in quotes because I want to examine the likely genuineness of her apology. I readily accept that she may be 'sorry' for describing Demetrius Panton as an "extremely disturbed person" - it is what she is actually sorry about that interests me.
According to a BBC report today, her letter of apology includes the following:
"I'd like to apologise unreservedly"
"I am sorry for the distress caused to you in recent days. I'd like to apologise unreservedly for using the words 'is an extremely disturbed person' with reference to you.
"I assure you that I will not repeat these words again."
What interests me is the second sentence, and the reason it has been included. When Margaret Hodge wrote her earlier impertinent letter to BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies, her motive was indisputably to close down the discussion by:
- attempting to intimidate the BBC into silence;
- making remarks about Mr Panton which were obviously not based on fact;
because she assumed that she, as a Government minister, had sufficient influence to preclude either Mr Davies or Mr Panton (should the latter ever become aware of it) retaliating. In both Mr Davies and Mr Panton she found objects of this ministerial arrogance unwilling to accept her actions meekly.
In Mr Panton, in particular, she found (no doubt to her horror) that he was not a 'damaged' individual, but an articulate and very well-educated person who stated, very simply, that he planned to sue Mrs Hodge for defamation. It seems to me that the SOLE reason for that second sentence is that her own legal advisers have concluded that there is a strong possibility that a case brought against their client would succeed. Margaret Hodge is 'sorry' - sorry to have got herself into this awful mess. Her apology is, to me, typical of a person who is arrogant and who has behaved as a bully, but has been found out and FORCED to retract. Whether she is suitable for ANY ministerial position is open to debate, but she is most certainly not fit to remain as Children's Minister.