Bell Pottinger’s apology last week had all the creepy sincerity of a pervert who’s really only sorry he got caught spying through a peephole.

James Henderson, CEO of the public relations firm, said its campaign for the Guptas — to stoke racial division around white monopoly capital — was “inappropriate and offensive”. He said his senior management had been “misled” by certain partners, who’ve now been axed. “This in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger,” he said.

There are a number of unavoidable inferences from Henderson’s insufficient apology. Firstly, Bell Pottinger is a firm with the nastiest history imaginable.

It was paid US$500m to produce fake Al-Qaeda videos to manipulate public opinion for the Pentagon; it sanitised Internet entries for its odious clients; and it boasted about manipulating search results to “drown out” coverage of human-rights violations and child labour.

Henderson says he did not know what was going on with the Guptas. But the firm’s founder, Lord Tim Bell, this week described this as “rubbish”. He said he’d warned against taking on the Guptas but had been “completely ignored”.

Clearly, the firm’s sordid past suggests no scruples whatsoever. So if Bell Pottinger says this Gupta campaign violated its “values”, what deeper horrors are yet to be revealed?

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