Should never have put me with that woman.But Ms Duffy was, sadly, a fairly typical voter. If you don’t want to meet voters, you shouldn’t become a politician - unless, of course, your lust for power overcomes your aversion to genuine politics.
What’s more, anyone with half a brain could have said a lot to placate her incoherent concern about east European immigrants. Such immigrants are contributing to the public finances and have helped the economy grow whilst keeping inflation down. And east European migration is not new; Poles have lived in England for decades with no ill-effects. Far from it; they made a significant contribution in the Battle of Britain.
That Brown did not say any of this merely highlights the cretinism of his immigration policy. On the one hand he’s pandered to bigotry and failed to make a case for immigration, but on the other hand he’s just given grist to the mill of every moron who bleats that “you can’t talk about immigration.“
What we saw yesterday, then, were two features of Brown’s Labour. There was the lofty managerialist aversion to arguing with real people; as Fraser says, the sight of someone in a Jag slagging off ordinary folk will resonate. And there was the inability to make a coherent argument for a just and proper cause.
But there’s another thing - Brown’s felt need to apologize. There are many reasons not to have done this. He should have debated properly with her instead. But having failed to do so, he should either have stuck to his guns, or figured that prolonging the story would merely do more damage. Instead, he rushed off to grovel.
This, I suspect, reveals much about his “moral compass.” He figured: “I sinned so I must repent.” This suggests that, to him, morality is a matter of external rules, any breach of which is to be punished. We can, however, contrast this to conceptions of virtue ethics. A virtuous politician might have argued on the spot, or decided he was right to call her a bigot, or made the tactical calculation that the apology would lose more votes.
Herein, however, lies perhaps one root of Labour’s illiberalism. Brown fails to see the possibility that people might, in the right circumstances, behave virtuously - as citizens or as public servants. Instead, he believes their behaviour, like his, must be constrained by rules.