As Milena Popova points out (but sadly precious few others), what Gillian Dufffy said was indeed unacceptable.
Indeed, Duffy herself knows it. Here’s the interesting thing: she presents her xenophobic comments as though she were bravely speaking out in the face of some tyranny of political correctness:
You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re… all these Eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?
Presumably the ellipsis here indicates that “you can’t say anything” about immigration because (surprise surprise!) you’ll only be accused of racism.
Sadly, however, “Bigotgate” proves the opposite.
Gordon Brown can only point out anti-immigrant bigotry in what he assumes to be the privacy of the back seat of his campaign car. And when it turns out that this candid moment was overheard by Sky News’s microphone, he cravenly apologizes (first on air, then in person) rather than simply making the point more eloquently and forcefully in public than in private.
Meanwhile, once again in the leader’s debate Brown competes with Cameron to present himself as more forcefully against immigration even than Clegg’s tepid proposal for a regional points-based policy and the occasional amnesty.
It is as though the BNP and the Daily Mail had fully succeeded in setting the agenda on immigration. For some reason it is now impossible, except (supposedly) discreetly and in private, to point out the everyday bigotry that blights British public discourse.
This is a craven capitulation by a political class that should and (as Brown’s indiscretion shows) actually does know better.
And it foments a strangely unabashed xenophobia that hesitates only briefly to announce itself, like a nervous tic, before continuing on regardless: “I know this is racist, but I’ll say it none the less and I dare you to correct me…”