I don’t care that the Prime Minister privately insulted someone who used the same kinds of words as bigots. Private conversations are like that: you don’t speak in legalese. It’s like my making an off-hand comment, to another atheist, about religious people being annoying. I don’t think all religious people are annoying. I think a minority are annoying, in specific ways. But the nuances don’t matter because you’re talking to friends who know you’re not actually being a dick. If someone overhears, you apologise, explain what you meant, wait while everyone ponders the situations where they’ve done something similar, and the world goes on as normal.
Unless, of course, you’re a politician – everyone knows politicians aren’t human, and where the rest of us make mistakes, they only accidentally betray their real thoughts. In which case you obviously deserve non-stop news coverage and deeply unpleasant front pages. I feel extremely sorry for Gordon Brown, if indeed his election campaign is seriously threatened by something so stupid, and I find it hard to muster much sympathy for a woman who, given the chance to speak to the Prime Minister, said:
You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re … but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?
A million people come from Europe but a million people, British people, have gone into Europe. You do know that there’s a lot of British people staying in Europe as well?
Which closely resembles a positive comment about immigration – the first I’ve heard from a party leader all election campaign.
Secondly, Peter Mandelson’s immediate response was ‘Gordon Brown doesn’t believe what he said’. Sometimes I quite like Peter Mandelson.