To a varied and occasionally coruscating CV that includes a stint at the bar, a spell in the cabinet and regular slots on the nation’s airwaves, David Mellor can now make an addition: penitent groveller.
Perhaps taken aback by the scale of the furore that has engulfed him since his secretly-recorded diatribe against the driver of a London black cab was aired last week – and aware that, in the wake of the “plebgate” and “white van man” affairs that did for Andrew Mitchell and Emily Thornberry respectively – the nation has little truck with the snobbish elite – Mellor yesterday used his LBC radio show to offer an abject apology for what he implied was a drunken rant.
Exemplifying Henry Kissinger’s maxim that “if it is going to come out eventually, better have it come out immediately”, the former Tory secretary of state for national heritage, aka “minister for fun”, used the first two minutes of his show to flagellate himself before a nation sitting in judgment.
“Well, there’s no denying it, is there? What a week! I mean really torrid – but probably no worse than I deserved,” began the man who has form in the torrid stakes – his former mistress, Antonia de Sancha, sold her story to the papers in 1992, an event that simultaneously signalled the beginning of the end of his political career and the fabrication of the myth that he enjoyed making love in a Chelsea football shirt.
“I can’t think what possessed me to lose it with that cabbie the way I did,” Mellor continued, before nearly dangerously veering away from self-recrimination with the observation: “OK, I had a case, but I threw it away by the way I spoke and I’m really, really sorry about that.”
Quickly shifting back into full penitential mode, Mellor declared: “I especially want to apologise to you, our listeners, for trying your patience and risking my own credibility with you by speaking like I did,” and then produced nothing less than a revelation. He had an explanation for what had possessed him to lose it after all: booze.
“Anyway, it’s water for me at the next celebratory lunch. I’ve definitely made that decision,” a humbled Mellor declared, surely aware that page three of yesterday’s Daily Mail showed him being driven home by his partner, Lady (Penny) Cobham, last Thursday night, looking a little florid after a night out with friends.
Clearly appreciating that actions speak louder than words, Mellor went on to promise that he would make a “substantial donation” to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association’s Christmas charity appeal, which this year is raising money for underprivileged children.
The apology came after Mellor was covertly recorded by a cab driver following a visit to Buckingham Palace, where Cobham had been presented with a CBE for services to tourism (she chairs VisitEngland). During a heated exchange, the cabbie and the former minister clashed over the best route to his £8m riverside home near Tower Bridge.
“I’ve been in the cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel,” Mellor angrily explained, before demanding: “Who are you to question me?”
But even in his on-air mea culpa, Mellor fell short of offering an apology to the object of his wrath, the unnamed taxi driver, a 38-year old man from south-east London who has apparently been driving cabs for a decade and whom the former cabinet minister referred to as a “sweaty, stupid little shit”.
Indeed, Mellor suggested many taxi drivers were on his side. “I’m one of London taxi’s best customers and I thank a lot of them for speaking out,” he intoned.
Was the apology enough for the war to be over by Christmas? “An apology on the radio and donation, fair enough I say,” tweeted Steve, a cabbie of 27 years.
But the fragile truce is threatened. There were suggestions on Twitter that Mellor took an Uber car to LBC.
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