ELTON John was wrong, hopelessly wrong, saying sorry is not the hardest word.

In fact, saying sorry is ­relatively easy if you have reflected on your words and deeds, and have the slenderest shred of human decency.

I say sorry a lot, and I rarely feel ­diminished by apologies. Often it’s trivial stuff, like overstating my case and allowing opinions to become rude, and sometimes it’s about a deeper failure in matters of love and relationships.

I raise this in a week that a long-standing grudge has, at least in part, been assuaged. The former Nottingham Forest footballer Jason Lee accepted an apology from the comedian David Baddiel for racist abuse in the past.

On his Twitter account @TheAbsoluteLeePodcast, Lee wrote: “It’s been 25 years since Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy ­Football League included sketches impersonating me in blackface. Yes, the sketches were racist, culturally offensive and ­bullying.”

For those that barely remember, Lee ­became a cult character in the network BBC show, partly due to a poor run of form but mostly because of a flamboyant dreadlock hairstyle that the footballer bundled up on his head, vaguely in the style of a ­pineapple.

For the purposes of comedic exaggeration, Baddiel and Skinner seized on the “pineapple look” and milked it to the point of exhaustion.

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More importantly, there was a ­nasty side to the joke, exaggerating Lee’s ­failures in front of the goal and, in an ­unambiguously ­racist twist, Baddiel dressed up in ­blackface.

It was not only racist but ­supercilious and arrogant and for those that are ­working on a PhD on the history of cancel culture, it’s the one that got away.

At the time, the two comedians were ­enjoying meteoric network success, and as is often the case with popular ­entertainers, they believed that they ­floated above established codes of ­decency.

One of the conceits of alternative ­comedy is a belief that it can take risks with race and cultural differences in ways that older comedians were rightly ­pilloried for.

David Baddiel is, to put it mildly, an ­acquired taste.

In Scotland, he is measurably less ­popular than he is in London, which may be connected to the fact that he was used liberally on television as the go-to ­England fan. The face that accompanies the ­“thirty years of hurt” after England’s World Cup victory in 1966. His ubiquitous presence during Euro 96 when ­Scotland were ­beaten by England at Wembley made him a pariah figure among the Tartan Army.

As his fame in England soared, Baddiel embarked on a book tour across the UK and attracted only three people to a ­signing in Glasgow. It was a humiliating letdown, but undaunted, Baddiel has since followed the lucrative queue of ­celebrities who have lent their names to children’s books.

One of his inexplicable successes is the way he had “stayed relevant” at least in the minds of creative commissioners in London who see him as a face that can front shows, in the often baffling era of “celebrity-led” television.

What made the rapprochement ­between Baddiel and his one-time victim Lee ­possible was a documentary Baddiel was making for Channel 4 entitled Jews Don’t Count in which the writer and ­comedian looks at antisemitism and the progressive left.

According to the pre-publicity it ranges from “theatre to football and explores a political blind spot with Stephen Fry, ­Miriam Margoyles and Neil Gaiman”.

As part of the documentary, Baddiel makes amends with Lee, apologising for his past failures and for the now horrendous imagery of blackface, which when re-published in today’s climate is ­startling, unbelievable and bitingly cruel.

Lee, now bald and a diversity worker within football, generously accepted the apology but makes the point that it was sad that it took decades of no ­communication and then a documentary reflecting on racial prejudice to spark Baddiel’s conscience.

Many were unimpressed. Those that pass instant judgement online cannot know for sure the inner turmoil that ­victim and perpetrator have felt over the years. Lee was made into a national laughing stock, mocked for a poor run of form and for a distinctive hairstyle.

At the time, he might have preferred to disappear into the anonymity of the dressing room ­until his form returned, rather than be the ­weekly fall guy of a show that could be both ­landmark and puerile at the same time.

Nor am I convinced that Baddiel ­simply sailed through the intervening years ­either. With each passing month, ­whether it was the campaigns to ­diversify ­television, football’s Show Racism The Red Card initiatives or the wider ­cultural impact of Black Lives Matter, Baddiel would have been troubled by the demeaning imagery of himself wearing blackface.

You would have to be stupid and sociopathic not to be regretful about the worst of your past actions. Baddiel is neither. He may be smug, quick-witted and opportunistic – but he is far from stupid nor is he devoid of regret. Whilst it’s better saying sorry later than never, it is always best action to do it quickly and sincerely and not allow time to fester.

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Almost parallel with Baddiel’s ­blackface pranks was the case of comedian Leigh ­Francis and his feud with the singer Craig David, over his Bo Selecta ­impersonations that again featured blackface.

Last month, Craig David, now 41, ­branded the Yorkshire-born comedian as a “bully” and a “racist” and claimed that his apology over his use of blackface on the show was “insincere”.

In a clunky retaliation, Francis risked opening old wounds by insisting that the only way for David to move on from the drama is to stop highlighting it.

The idea of “moving on” is, of course, the luxury of the perpetrator, victims are in a different place, in the case of Lee ­publicly defined by Baddiel’s lampooning and in the case of David, there is a very good case to be made that Bo Selecta’s parody had a seriously detrimental impact on his credibility and his career.

David even told the Sunday Times that he felt his career was at risk. “The whole Bo Selecta! thing was killing me for a while,” he said. “Because this idiot had a cult following and I was the main ­caricature ... Inside, it was absolutely pissing me off and hurtful beyond belief. There were times when I thought I just want to knock this guy out.”

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In the world of modern ­entertainment, and in the aftermath of the Me Too ­movement, there is an increasing awareness that lawyers around the world have expanded into damage litigation and that Britain has inherited a culture once uniquely associated with Hollywood.

We know that daytime television is saturated with adverts for accidental damage lawyers, but what is just as prevalent, but conducted behind closed doors, is the growth in lawyers managing the careers and indiscretions of celebrities.

The so-called Wagatha Christie ­trial at the Old Bailey and R&B singer R ­Kelly’s, convictions for child pornography and sexual abuse are two ends of the ­spectrum of celebrity court cases.

I have no idea whether David Baddiel or Leigh Francis have consulted ­lawyers about accusations of racism, bullying and career damage, but if they have, then ­“contrition” becomes an important bystander, and admitting wrongdoing becomes an own goal.