THE British prime minister, David Cameron, is turning out to be even keener than Tony Blair on apologising for the way Britain treated other countries and individuals in the past.
Mr Blair famously said sorry for the Famine and for the role of Britain in the African slave trade; while his successor, Gordon Brown, apologised for the government's abduction of tens of thousands of British children who were surreptitiously dispatched to foster families in countries like Australia in order to provide them with white, Anglo-Saxon population fodder.
Last week in Pakistan, Mr Cameron widened the scale of the country's post-imperial guilt complex when he rejected suggestions that he could step in to help solve the row with India over Kashmir.
"I don't want to try to insert Britain in some leading role," he said, "where, as with so many of the world's problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place."
Mr Cameron is going to have a lot more apologising to do in the next few years because, just as he was flying off on Ryanair for a two-day holiday in Spain to celebrate his wife's birthday, damaging details were emerging of what looks like being one of the biggest cover-ups in British history.
In George Orwell's classic political satire '1984', the Ministry of Truth had a Records Department, known as Recdep, where incriminating or embarrassing information from the past was either rewritten to suit the dictates of the government or destroyed in memory holes.
The British government's version of Recdep is not a huge pyramidal structure, as in '1984', with slogans on the wall saying 'War is Peace -- Ignorance is Strength', but an elegant mansion called Hanslope Park in the depths of the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside and not a memory hole in sight.
It looks like the kind of place that figures in the opening scenes of a BBC2 historical drama based on 'Jane Austen', but it is in fact the place where the Foreign Office has, for almost 50 years, been secretly hiding away thousands of embarrassing files that document multiple abuses of power in former colonies.
Throughout the past few decades, the government has strongly denied these files existed. Some of the most incriminating relate to torture and other inhuman treatment of those held in Kenya during the Mau Mau era. Among those now waiting to find out the full details of the files is President Obama, whose Kenyan grandfather was held and tortured because of his role in the Mau Mau.
It is clear from the material already released that the authorities in Kenya were well aware of the way in which the law was being broken as they struggled to put down the uprising against colonial power.
In a candid acceptance of this, the attorney-general of Kenya, Eric Griffith-Jones, who died in 1979, noted that the Forced Labour Convention was not being observed in the prison camps. "If, therefore we are going to sin," he wrote, "we must sin quietly." The civil servants agreed with this classic example of Sir Humphrey cynicism and removed almost 9,000 files from their imperial offices in 37 colonies before the new independent rulers could get their hands on them.
"We are a government that believes in transparency and openness," said the foreign secretary, William Hague, at the weekend as he pledged that all the material would be publicly released, subject only to legal constraints.
The official spindoctor line in Whitehall is that the huge cache of files was inadvertently 'lost' in the system and believed to have been destroyed simply because of inadequate documentation procedures.
That may have been true in the very recent past but it is certainly not true of the original cover-up and it was only because of the persistence of one middle-ranking Foreign Office civil servant that the full truth finally emerged.
The revelations are going to be expensive for the chancellor, George Osborne, because a handful of surviving victims of the abuse in Kenya now have ample documentary evidence to pursue their claims for compensation.
OTHER lawsuits look certain to follow. The overall bill will be dwarfed, of course, by the massive scale of the Treasury's other commitments, but it will add to the intense difficulty faced by Mr Osborne in trying to get the budget deficit under control.
That is why there was astonishment among right-wing MPs last week when Mr Cameron, during his time in Pakistan, promised £650m (€7.3m) to improve that country's schools.
That is roughly equivalent to all the extra money that will come in this year from the controversial 2pc rise in tax on higher-paid employees in Britain. Since Mr Cameron got back from Pakistan, the government's finances have got even worse, with the need to pledge several billion pounds as part of the Portuguese bailout and the unsurprising rejection by voters in Iceland of the proposal to repay Britain the money lost by UK depositors in its banks.