Yesterday morning, I was in Gatwick Airport helping to despatch my kids’ half siblings on a flight to France to see their aunt. We were sitting in one of the North Terminal cafe bars, where Sky News was showing on the widescreen TV. Suddenly, a shocking piece of footage appeared and grabbed my attention. Uniformed men were dragging a screaming infant along a pavement. A pregnant woman was lying unconscious on the ground. I squinted at the screen. Was it a war zone? Afghanistan? No: it was French gendarmes removing African squatters from a Paris housing estate.

I was even more shocked when, later in the day, I viewed the same YouTube-derived footage more clearly on the Daily Mail website and read the bigoted comments posted below. Said one reader: “Those women were the ones at fault; they used their children as a shield! I wish we in our country would take a stronger stand.” Said another: “Any chance of it happening here? Thought not. Too many liberal bleeding hearts, lefty do gooders, sucking-up politicians and civil liberties stirrers. Well done France.”

“Where were the men,” asked a few more people. “Why didn’t they (the women and children) cooperate with the police?” Perhaps they had nowhere else to go. Several critics voiced their concerns that the evicted immigrants would be sent to the UK.

The general tone was one of bigotry and ‘clever France’.

Gosh. Warning bells are ringing.

This scenario has a disturbing, if vague, undertone of Nazi Germany: if we kicked out all those pesky immigrants who are taking our jobs here in Britain (such as low paid shift work within the hospitality industry, which English people don’t generally want to do), straining our welfare state and depleting our social housing stock, we could have more lebensraum, ja? When shall we all start collectively doing a Goosestep?

It’s bad enough that the BNP won 1.9% of the vote in the recent general election and that Nick Griffin is an elected MEP without being subjected to the far-right-wing hysteria of Little Englanders who wish to pull up the drawbridge and preserve “an English place for English people”, even if it requires brutality towards people of other nationalities who might come here.

My easygoing and professional French housemate has worked as a catering manager in a Brighton-based institution for the last few years. He tells me that, recently, the prevailing public attitude towards foreign nationals in the UK has noticeably shifted. Not so long ago, a colleague told him to “f*ck off back to your own country” because he didn’t like the composition of a mixed salad. Bearing in mind that some Brits are satisfied with their salad containing a lettuce leaf and a slice of cucumber garnished with salad cream – and maybe damp cress if you’re lucky - I would have thought that French-influenced cuisine and the people who create it would be welcomed with open arms. Apparently not in this case!

I don’t necessarily agree with UK immigration policy but foreign nationals are, err, real people, not just statistics. Are we to dehumanise them when it suits our purposes? The fact that some Brits consider it OK to drag women and children of any nationality or ethnic origin roughly across a pavement is, in itself, a tad disturbing. As the downturn maintains its grip and the government introduces austerity measures and cuts public sector spending, do we really want to see a rise in racism and bigotry hand-in-hand with the times we are living within?

Many people say that Nazi Germany could never happen again. Personally, I’m not 100% convinced about that assertion. A 2008 film called 'The Wave' depicts a school experiment in a fascist dictatorship which soon grows out of control. Given an autocratic group to embrace, some of the pupils who were previously not socially accepted become over-enthused and, by the end of the experiment, they would be willing to murder their opponents if the leader (their teacher) demanded it. One boy shoots another boy.

I would say this is nearer to the reality of what could potentially happen if the socioeconomic and political conditions supported it. In the meantime, we are all responsible for not allowing bigotry and racism to creep in around the edges of acceptability.