SORRY is not the hardest word. In my previous job as a policeman, I heard thousands of people say they were sorry – really sorry – for what they had done.

Most meant they regretted they had been caught and were having to pay the price. So despite what Sir Elton sings, sorry is not the hardest word. Not in my book.

In my training I was taught I must always look for evidence to support any decision. So deeds, not words impress me. If someone is sorry for their wrongdoing, they have to demonstrate they have changed permanently and for the better.

That’s why I doubt if this week’s human sacrifices, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, are truly sorry for their juvenile behaviour.

They may disappear, like Ron Atkinson after his appalling racist remarks, but I doubt it. Gray will be snapped up by a channel or newspaper where his prejudices chime with those of the audience, and Keys will take what is becoming something of a time-honoured route in these affairs.

First comes the blunder, followed by the half-hearted apology. Then comes the second revelation which causes the culprit to realise the game’s up and they surrender.

There follows a few months of blessed silence before they re-emerge on some appalling advert or I’m a Celebrity… show.

This dismal duo share with the people I used to deal with the fact that they were allowed to get away with it for too long.

I’ve always said that early intervention is the most efficient and cost-effective way of dealing with problems from crime and antisocial behaviour to family breakdown and environmental blight. Provide support and correction when the problem first manifests itself and you will save a lot of money and misery later on.

It is clear that Gray and Keys had been up to their unpleasant tricks for some time. Yet no one stopped them. No one took them aside and warned them that their behaviour was unacceptable.

The bosses who ignored or colluded with them are every bit as guilty. But their anonymity saves their skins and means that the root cause of the problem isn’t tackled.

It has been the familiar story of a powerful establishment, in this case a massively profitable broadcasting business, moving into self-preservation mode and ruthlessly dealing with a liability. It is how all establishments work and why they are so successful.

It is also why, despite their many words of contrition, they so rarely change their ways and continue to serve us rather badly.

POLITICIANS are notoriously bad at saying sorry or admitting they might be wrong because they’re frightened people will think they’re weak.

They are mistaken. I think people would take an admission of error every now and again as proof that they were dealing with someone who had an open mind and was capable of humility. Not bad qualities in a public servant.

So I was worried this week by David Cameron and George Osborne’s comments on the economy. It wasn’t so much the fact they decided to stick to their guns, it was their refusal to accept even the slightest suggestion they might be wrong.

I genuinely hope they are right and that there will be some gain after all the pain. But, again, going on the evidence, I really do wish they would allow themselves just a shadow of a doubt and a little room for manoeuvre.