With Brown's 'Bigot' Gaffe, Immigration Issue Front and Center in UK, Too
Tories and Liberal Democrats are gloating over Prime Minister Gordon Brown's "bigot" gaffe.
Brown called Gillian Duffy, a Labour voter, a bigot when he thought the microphones were off. It sent media into a frenzy, particularly British political blogs, and became a popular hashtag on Twitter: #bigotgate.
I have doubts, however, about whether this will be the key moment of the election. John Prescott threw a punch at a voter in 2001 and it didn't hurt his party's chances. The last "leader" debate occurs tomorrow afternoon, allowing Brown a quick opportunity to put the mess in the past. And he has already offered his groveling apology and flowers, spending more than 30 minutes in the grandmother's modest home in the town of Rochdale:
Sometimes you do make mistakes and you use wrong words, and once you've used that word and you've made a mistake, you should withdraw it and say profound apologies, and that's what I've done.
Calling an old woman "a bigot" for asking about immigration is a pretty dumb thing to do, but not surprising considering the tenor of the immigration debate in England. No major party cares to touch it with any meaningful legislation, despite the polls defining it is a major concern for a large number of Britons.
In the U.S., the Arizona law requiring police to enforce immigration law has brought out similar charges of bigotry and racism. Advocates for illegals are up in arms and boycotts are being threatened. Supporters of the law are calling for a "buycott" -- greater commerce with Arizona.
One dangerous loon called for murder.
In the UK, politicians are so obsessed with political correctness that they panic at an off-color remark by a member of their party. In recent days a Conservative candidate has been forced to resign because he called homosexuality "unnatural," and a Labour candidate met the same fate for saying he would rather his daughter "not marry a Muslim." Several other candidates have had to resign over comments involving immigrants and crime levels, even if what they were saying was in fact objective and in the public record.
Such political correctness plays into the hands of the neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP). They routinely claim that people are being ignored by the major parties and that their views are being discounted:
The simple, unfortunate fact is that the British National Party is gaining in popularity, and 53 percent of those quizzed worry the racist party is capitalizing on this issue.
Currently unclear is whether or not UKIP, a party similar to U.S. conservatives, will get a boost from this gaffe:
UKIP's manifesto states their immigration policy as a five-year freeze on immigrants settling in Britain, workers' permits, border control, and leaving the European Union. It makes sense. Yet, the three parties: Labour, Tory, and Liberal Democrat, have voted years ago on this open-door policy.
The polls taken since the gaffe do not hold good news for Labour. The latest YouGov poll puts Lib-Dems up three points and Labour down two.
In the U.S., politicians and pundits of all stripes are looking to make sure people know they are not keen on Arizona's solution to the immigration problem. Obama has reacted in a similar (if less clumsy) way than Brown did.
The political elites are utterly paranoid about anything related to immigration. A woman simply asking how the country could afford the high levels of immigration Labour has encouraged is called a bigot by the prime minister, and Arizona is threatened with boycotts for looking to stop an out-of-control situation. We shall see what affect "this gaffe" is going to have on Labour's electoral fortunes, but we can be sure the subject of immigration is not being debated well on either side of the Atlantic.