Around lunchtime today I Tweeted that this was the most dispiriting election campaign I could remember. It remains so, although a spark of life has been injected with what's already become known as Bigot-gate (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/28/gordon-brown-bigoted-woman ).
[It would make a great storyline for The Thick of It; just think what Malcolm Tucker would make of it.]
The uncomfortable reality in most areas of Merseyside is that immigration & the use of migrant labour has been ignored as an issue by Labour & the Lib Dems (we all know the Tories' irrelevance in the region), allowing the BNP to raise it at every opportunity. Speaking the other day to a couple of acquaintances in the white, working-class constituency of Bootle, it was clear that their hostility to Cameron's privileged upbringing & the banks' culpability over the global financial crisis was tempered by a confused & aggrieved take on the immigration issue, the result of a silence from the parties, mainly Labour, it must be said, allowing the myths peddled by the BNP to take hold.
Gary Younge penned a finely-balanced piece at the beginning of the week on the issue (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/26/we-need-an-honest-immigration-debate ). However, John Harris' take on Brown's microphone moment also makes for instructive reading (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/28/bigot-gordon-brown-gillian-duffy ):
"The incident perfectly captures a plotline that I've observed time and again, not least as we've been travelling round the country during the campaign: millions of people who are confused, unsettled, and often ragingly angry, faced with a political class that affects to feel their pain, but too often holds them in borderline contempt. What with the rise in support for the BNP -- and that great chasm that divides too much of the country from richer corners of the capital -- the metropolitan media is part of the same problem. It tends to portray them as latter-day Alf Garnetts, nostalgic for a world long gone, and fired up by the sort of prejudices that have no place in London W1 or W11."
Harris concludes with a point which helps explain the dislocation between such voters & the party to which they once pledged largely unconditional allegiance:
"This may sound tangential, but I'm rather reminded of a passage from a Tony Blair conference speech that both sets out New Labour's credo, and captured its essential pathology. ' The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition, ' he said. ' Unforgiving of frailty. No respecter of past reputations. It has no custom and practice. It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change. ' That doesn't describe Gillian Duffy [the woman who confronted Brown], nor millions and millions of other people. And in this awful episode, here are the wages of that ever-festering disconnection."
There is a tendency for middle-class liberals to dismiss & disparage what are still called Labour's heartlands ( disgraced ex-Cabinet minister Geoff Hoon referred to them as "metal bashers"). Countering such lazy aspersions are the people in these areas standing up to the BNP.