IT'S not just what you say, it's how you say it – politicians know that better than most of us.

So what does the manner of Boris Johnson's apology over the garden party scandal tell us about how he plans to survive it? Here we take a look:

"I WANT to apologise."

The Prime Minister opens not by saying he is sorry, but that he wants to make an apology. It would have been easy to say simply "I apologise" but he didn't.

"I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

"I know the anguish they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.

"I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules."

This is a direct appeal to the public and the first two and a half lines feel like they're building to a big concession, but that doesn't come.

Johnson walks back on that acknowledgement of sacrifice, anguish and rage by stating that the people "think" that the rules are not being properly followed. This scandal is about parties/work meetings (take your pick) that have already happened, so shifting to present tense here is telling. Is Johnson keener to focus on now than then? Unquestionably.

The switch from "I know" to "people... think" is also an interesting choice and attempts to insert an element of doubt as Johnson moves on to his next point – the inquiry is ongoing and has not yet returned any conclusions. This is something he continues to hide behind. He is not admitting a rule breach here.

"And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.

"No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

"When I went into that garden just after six on 20 May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event."

Johnson here casts himself not as the person in charge nor the figure of authority; he is a guest in his own garden, someone else did it. He suggests he has been somehow misled about the nature of the event outside his door. This is in contrast with the assertion that he "must take responsibility". He must, but does he?

He "cannot anticipate the conclusions" of the probe but has "learned enough". It's unclear what learning Johnson is alluding to here but he presents himself as someone with little knowledge of the actions of government departments and staff.

"With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

"I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this house I offer my heartfelt apologies.

"All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established."

As the statement ends, Johnson acknowledges he could have done things differently, but the apology is to the house, not the public. While there are conventions about parliamentary speech, Johnson has by now noted public "rage", so why not extend the apology to the people he is responsible to? And we finish with an appeal for patience for the "full facts" of Gray's probe, another entreaty to listeners.

The Prime Minister has not admitted breaking the rules. That is not what this apology is. 

Everything rests on Gray, Johnson seems to say, and it's an attempt as much as to appear responsible and respectful of the rules as to close the conversation on this.

Slim chance.