The Prime Minister's contemptuous dismissal of Gillian Duffy has plunged the Labour campaign into crisis and again raises questions about his character...
Labour’s election campaign was in disarray tonight after Gordon Brown was forced to apologise to a pensioner and lifelong party supporter whom he had described as ‘a bigoted woman’ for questioning him over the scale of immigration from eastern Europe.
His contemptuous dismissal of 65 year-old Rochdale resident Gillian Duffy, made in private but caught by a live broadcast feed, again raised questions about his volatile character.
Initially unaware of the furore caused by his offhand remark, Brown is now desperate to make amends and is in damage control mode. Parked outside the grandmother’s residence, the Prime Minister addressed the media and called himself a ‘penitent sinner‘.
He even called up Duffy over the telephone and said he was absolutely ‘mortified’ by his outburst, insisting he had been ‘misunderstood’, reports The Telegraph. Brown had met Duffy on the streets of Rochdale when she accosted him over a range of issues including the scale of debt, taxes and tuition fees. At one point during the discussion she referred to eastern Europeans ‘flocking’ to Britain.
After an apparently pleasant conclusion to the conversation and closing his car door, Brown turned to his director of strategic communications, Justin Forsyth. Asked by Forsyth what Duffy had said he replied: ‘Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.’
Brown was then played back his remarks on a live Radio 2 phone-in. He covered his face with his hands, and said he blamed himself. He apologised to Duffy on the phone, and was then going to hold a press conference in Manchester to apologise again, before agreeing to drive back to Rochdale and say sorry to her in person.
Tonight, the Prime Minister will attempt to draw line under ‘bigotgate’ in the crucial final TV election debate. Will you be watching?