There is more than just the public humiliation aspect here. I argued in my News of the World column last weekend that it shows us something about a politician: that he can recognise a mistake and change track. In these fast-changing times, the ability to correct errors is vital. I don't think Brown can say sorry because he is still repeating his error: he borrowed too much, and threatened to drown Britain in a sea of borrowed money. His solution is even more of this debt. As we saw with British Jobs for British Workers, he will say anything to get political advantage. But he hasn't said sorry because he thought he could fool us that he was right all along. I suspect only a handful of people in the country believe it. So Brown, you could argue, has nothing to lose.
Sorry matters because almost everyone in the politiical (and commenting) classes got this wrong. As I said before, we have to move from a BC (Before the Crash) mindset to an AD (After the Downturn) way of thinking - and that means accepting much of what we knew in the last ten years was a lie. Bank of England independence was not a great success, as many (myself included) said. The BoE has been disastrous at monetary policy: over-supply of money - not sub-prime - is the root cause of this crisis. Apart from Jeff Randall and John Redwood - and, no doubt, a stream of CoffeeHousers - no one saw this coming. I'm a professional Brown-baiter. Even I missed the significance of the debt bubble. Mea maxima culpa.
I'd like to add a final, no doubt unpopular point. David Cameron has so far made a bat squeak of an apology to Andrew Marr: he should have noticed Brown's spending was out of control, he said. He needs to shout this louder, and be proud of his 'sorry'. To let us know he's the versatile type, as Obama did last week with his "I screwed up" admission. Cameron should be able not only to taunt Brown but to say: "I admitted I got it wrong - why can't you?" The public are not daft: they can see Cameron got it wrong. Why else promise to stick to Brown's ruinously expensive spending plans? There is a case, right now, for not trusting anyone who doesnt admit they got it wrong. Odds are that they are still trapped in the bubble mentality.
As for Brown, he's rumbled. The public have pulled back the curtain on this latter-day Wizard of Oz. In 2005 Blair adopted what he called the "masochism strategy" - went and got beaten up everywhere, did face-to-face interviews, got torn apart by TV audiences. The Blairites believe this took the sting out of the 2005 anti-Labour vote. I suspect Brown's pollsters are telling him it's time for a little masochism too. If he apologises, as Martin suggests he will, it may go some way to stopping the decline in Labour's poll ratings.