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?

Pootergeek sums it up nicely, and I’d add two points. Firstly, reading the transcript, Gordon Brown initially replied with:

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.