Reporters and political commentators have been lining up since the election to tell us they are sorry: they were wrong about Jeremy Corbyn, wrong about the move to the left which is both cause and consequence of his leadership of the Labour Party, wrong about 'the public'.

For months, journalists have been attacking and undermining Corbyn's leadership and the leftward move of the Labour Party. The election result has made it difficult for them to continue in quite the same vein. Why risk looking like a bad loser, when you can be magnanimous in defeat? You get to show that you are humble, courageous, gracious. You keep your position on the platforms that might more properly be yielding space to some of the many whose voices have not been heard but who have long seen things more clearly.

And then, pretty soon – in the same breath, if you’re impatient – you can get onto the ‘but’, explaining how despite the ‘shock’ result, you were right about the Central Point: Corbyn may have done better than ‘we’ (or ‘everyone’) thought he could, but he still can’t actually win a general election. Or: he can win only if he and the party are prepared to change in the ways you’ve always said they should.

In other words, you get to carry on with business as usual. This is more or less the opposite of real humility or remorse. The mark of a genuine apology is a subsequent change in behaviour: you turn over a new leaf, try to compensate for harms caused; maybe you shut up for a bit, and reflect on what went wrong. You don’t milk your apology for all it’s worth and then do the same thing again.

The latest round of apologising was prompted by a hopeful turn in a long, grim story. But it fits a familiar pattern. Who nowadays isn’t against the Iraq War, for example? How many of the politicians who now admit that it was a ‘mistake’ opposed the invasion at the time? How many of them had learned enough not to cheer on the bombings of Libya or of Syria? Such belated confessions aren't just ‘too little too late’. They're part of the process by which mistakes, crimes and tragedies are repeated.