Gordon Brown may have torpedoed his last chance to be prime minister in his own right when, in the privacy of his limo, he called 66-year-old Gillian Duffy that "bigoted woman."
What had widow Duffy done to deserve the slur?
After taking the Labor Party leader to task for several minutes, Mrs. Duffy raised the immigration issue -- "These Eastern Europeans, where are they all flocking from?"
Brown responded that a million East Europeans had entered Britain, but a million Britons had emigrated to the continent.
The exchange over, Duffy was pleased with having been televised with the prime minister and said she would vote for Brown. Until, that is, she was told that Brown, overheard on a microphone he was wearing but forgot about, called her that "bigoted woman."
The shock on Mrs. Duffy's face showed genuine pain.
That the episode was disastrous for Brown even he agrees. But it raises a larger question. Who is the real bigot here?
Assume Duffy is upset that millions of East Europeans strangers and Third World peoples have moved into her country and neighborhood, and she wishes she had back the Britain she grew up in.
Is that bigotry? And, if so, why?
In his last year as prime minister, Winston Churchill, concerned that an influx from the Caribbean would turn Britain into what he called a "magpie society," identified immigration as "the most important subject facing this country" and, according to Harold Macmillan, wanted the Tories to adopt a policy and slogan of "Keep Britain White!"
If this makes Churchill and Mrs. Duffy bigots, are the Japanese all bigots because they refuse to allow immigration? Countries all over the world restrict or forbid the kind of mass immigration we and Europe have embraced.
Does the desire of a people to preserve its unique and separate ethnic identity and cultural character, de facto, constitute bigotry?
Are the Israelis bigots because Bibi Netanyahu demands that in any peace agreement with Palestinians it be stipulated that Israel shall forever remain a Jewish nation? Are the Muslim Uighurs and Tibetans bigots because they want to end the migration of Han Chinese into their homelands, secede from China and set up ethnonational states of their own: East Turkestan and Tibet?
If "Africa for the Africans" was a wonderful slogan in the 1950s, why is "Britain for the Britons" a bigoted idea today?
During the 1976 campaign, Jimmy Carter said in Philadelphia he respected the "ethnic purity" of the neighborhoods and would not use federal power to alter their character.
Carter was saying that organic communities created by people of a separate ethnic heritage and cultural character -- the Little Italys, Polish neighborhoods, Chinatowns -- should be respected and left alone.
At the beginning of Black History Month 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder, in his "Nation of Cowards" address, said: "(O)utside the workplace, the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between (black and white). On Saturdays and Sundays, America ... does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago."
America, Holder went on, "is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated."
Did not Holder have a point?
Washington, D.C., where John McCain got 6.5 percent of the vote, is the most liberal precinct in the Electoral College. No Republican presidential candidate has ever gotten 20 percent of the vote.
Yet D.C. remains largely self-segregated. Hardly any white children can be found in D.C. public schools. As one conservative wrote sardonically, when it comes to the spouses they choose, the schools their kids attend, the neighborhoods they live in and the churches they go to, the white liberal elite pretty much replicates the social patterns of the Ku Klux Klan.
Of Brown's insult of Mrs. Duffy, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, said we got a "window into the character of the prime minister."
More precisely, we got a window into the mindset of Brown. Just as we got a window into the mindset of Barack Obama when he said, in that closed meeting in San Francisco, about working-class whites in Pennsylvania, whom the world has supposedly passed by:
"So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Brown's statement, and Obama's, reflect a prejudice, a prejudgment against those who resist and reject the multiethnic, multicultural world they embrace as progressive and seek to bring about.
Of Mrs. Duffy it may be said: You may not like what she thinks, but she says what she thinks.
As for those who think her a bigot, most lack the courage of their convictions. Brown revealed that by running away from and apologizing for saying what he thinks.