Here is the long Mail Online account of the encounter between Gordon Brown and Mrs Gillian Duffy.
It squeezes more than maximum juice out of this fleeting encounter, yet the words of Mrs Duffy and the accompanying pictures are touching:
‘There’s been a development,’ she was told by a reporter from Sky News, whose microphone had been attached to the Prime Minister’s lapel.
‘I didn’t understand at first,’ Gillian reflects. ‘I went to sit at the back of the van where they played me the tape. Everyone was watching as they played it back. They had to play it twice to me. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even quite sure what the word really meant. I called Debbie and had to ask her. Then I thought, why has he called me that?’
For a moment Gillian looks bereft. Then, gathering herself, she adds: ‘I saw myself later on telly and I had to laugh. Somebody asked me what I was going to do and I just said, “Oh, I’d best go home.”
‘Then I waddled off like a penguin, I looked so despondent.’
Subsequent interviews with Mrs Duffy brought out clearly that her main worry was the National Debt. Yet Gordon Brown seemed to pick up on her reference to immigrants from Eastern Europe as a sure sign that she was ‘bigoted’.
Let me tell you a story.
Years ago when I was the FCO Resident Clerk – see my first-ever posting here – I would have regular visits from the fleet of FCO Messengers. These were people with the unglamorous job of sorting out all the different envelopes arriving in the FCO (including by tube), then taking them on trolleys round the building to the right recipients.
Not all these people were happy in their work. But the messengers working on the overnight shifts were cheery enough, and sometimes when my telephones weren’t ringing we’d sit chatting in the Clerkery over a mug of tea, arguing the toss about UK and international politics.
The most fun I had (by then I was a raving Thatcherite, having lived in communist Yugoslavia) was with Red Jim, an unswerving and well informed Labour supporter who lived in Brixton. We’d hammer away at the role of the state and privatisation and East/West relations. Lots of laughs.
On one issue and only one issue Jim was strongly against Labour: immigration.
He had been appalled by the transformation of Brixton in his lifetime into what was by the mid-1980s a crime-stricken ‘multi-cultural’ poor area. He’d had no say in that transformation. Discussing it without being called a racist was next to impossible. He felt betrayed. And angry.
I spoke this week to a lady who has a camp of illegals on the edge of her land: She lies awake at night, fearful for her children and alert to strange noises in the yard. President Obama, shooting from his lip, attacked the new law as an offense against “fairness.” Where’s the fairness for this woman’s family? Because her home is in Arizona rather than Hyde Park, Chicago, she’s just supposed to get used to living under siege?
Like Gillian Duffy in northern England, this lady has to live there, while the political class that created this situation climbs back into the limo and gets driven far away.
Think about it.
Wherever you live in the UK, ‘planning’ bureaucrats are likely to pore over any attempt you make to change the shape or look of your house. The state controls that in microscopic detail, so as to ‘plan’ how a neighbourhood shall look and develop (if at all).
Yet there is anti-planning when it comes to the ‘look’ of a neighbourhood from a human point of view. Residents of an area are allowed no effective collective say in whether the ‘ethnic’ character of their area (something real if undefinable) should be preserved. Even talking about it may be deemed to break the law.
This issue is painful for all political parties and tendencies, anywhere.
People do have all sorts of different ways of expressing group identities. Most people believe (or at least feel instinctively that there is such a thing as a collective identity different from the sum of individuals’ identities. And they may value that group identity sufficiently strongly to want to defend it, by fair means or foul.
Bosnia’s impenetrable ethnic problems are by now a banal example. Serbs, Bosniacs and Croats just do not trust each other to behave fairly if they achieve power. ‘Bosnians’ representing a different, shared identity get squeezed out.
Up the road in Switzerland people are trying to defend Swiss-ness by banning the building of mosques. In far Japan huge efforts are being allocated to developing robots to help the ageing population manage without mass immigration.
Down in Nigeria in March ‘hundreds’ of people were reported killed in ethnic violence. Back in Europe, Malta with a very specific identity has been pressing for help from larger partners on illegal immigrants from Africa.
And so on, round the world, all the time.
‘Progressive’ thinking ought to anguish most about the policy issues involved. Yet latterly it has given up, or to be precise been hijacked by ‘anti-imperialist’ extremists.
On the one hand Labour’s ‘multi-culturalism’ requires enforcing respect for different cultures as such.
On the other, much of Labour’s multi-culturalism means denigrating British history and traditions, which in practice requires the de-legitimising of mainstream ‘patriotic’ or national thinking especially where ‘white’ working-class people are concerned. Britishness or, God forbid, Englishness is at best highly questionable.
Above all, we know for a fact that Labour allowed mass immigration into the UK as an explicitly ideological project, aimed as an end in itself at literally changing the way the country looked and behaved, all to promote progressive agendas.
Hence the real reason why Gordon Brown saw Mrs Duffy as, of all things, a bigot.
Mrs Duffy was a normal person, asking the sort of normal question about her neighbourhood’s identity in a modest way, expressing a concern which would resonate with 99.9% of people round the planet in our confusing era of globalised everything.
But that very question and that very concern were enough to make Gordon Brown gruffly and immediately to dismiss her as some of racistic extremist, unfit for Labour purpose.
This exchange Reveals All about the darkest heart of the whole New Labour project since 1997: internalised, brutish, elitist arrogance on an unbelievable scale.
Nick Cohen in the Observer scrapes the bottom of the barrel in the hope of finding some lost scraps:
Alongside all Labour’s scoundrels and freeloaders, you can still find honourable men and women who believe in equality and internationalism. Their presence shows that even if the party’s leaders cannot make it, and even if it takes a gut-wrenching effort to make it on their behalf, there remains a case for voting Labour – despite everything.
Alas not. Because now we know for sure that Labour have used the language of ‘equality and internationalism’ for dangerously dishonest ulterior purposes.
They love ‘the people’. They hate individuals.
Enough. Just go away.