To my surprise, the New Zealand Police places restrictions on the recruitment of people who are being treated with antidepressants.

The official language in the policy reads like it was penned in 1980 - recruits with mental health issues are required to be "symptom-free" and off medication for at least two years before joining the police.

When he was asked to comment, Stuart Nash stuffed up. The Labour MP immediately ran an ignorant line, claiming police should be able to fill their numbers with people who don't suffer mental health problems.

Never mind the discriminatory factor, the weak statistical link between mental health and violence, and the fact that instigating such a policy is likely to deter potential recruits from seeking mental health assistance.


Unsurprisingly, Nash was immediately slammed. But then he made a sagacious decision. Almost as quickly as he'd run his mouth, Stuart Nash beat an almighty retreat.

He didn't double down. He didn't try to twist his words or justify his comments. Instead, he noted his mistake and immediately apologised. He put up a link to the news article with his original comments and tweeted a follow-up statement.

"Just want to say that I got this wrong. Should have consulted the experts first. My sincere apologies." And whaddaya know? The story as good as disappeared.

The cynics among us can debate the authenticity of Nash's remorse. But it's curious to note its effectiveness compared with that of a few other newsmakers.

I'm constantly confused why so many politicians and corporates find it so hard to say sorry.

Apologising should never be considered a sign of weakness or intimidation. In practice, it's a sign of decency. All people and companies make mistakes and every one of us knows it - apologising is an acknowledgement of humanness.

Nash's boss would do well to note the effectiveness of his MP's quick mea culpa.

If Andrew Little had come out in the Hagaman saga and immediately apologised, he might have saved himself the stress of a $2.3 million lawsuit.


And he need only have considered recent Labour Party history for an education in digging oneself out of the proverbial: Shane Jones' surviving a taxpayer-funded-pornography scandal still sets the standard for escaping the quicksand of public opinion.

Funnily enough, all the money and PR advisers on Earth won't necessarily buy you this wisdom.

If United Airlines' CEO had immediately apologised instead of defending the assault of his airline's passenger, he might have saved his company from headlines around the world. Ask that man if he thinks all publicity is good publicity.

Quick and full apologies can be so rare and unexpected that a decent public apology can do more than just reverse an error's damage.

Stuart Nash was criticised for his comments at first, but then praised for falling on his sword. People reacted on Twitter with terms like "refreshing".

It seems highly possible Stuart Nash will end his week with a net positive result.

United Airlines, meanwhile, wiped a billion dollars in value.

Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB Saturday, 9am-noon