“Bigoted woman” brings election to life, but is it nail in Brown’s coffin?

April 28, 2010

brown_rochdaleForget the budget deficit, forget the jobless, forget the recession and forget the spending cuts to come.

The  election is just over a week away. But the biggest issue for the media has become whether or not Gillian
Duffy, a pensioner in Rochdale, had accepted an apology from Gordon Brown after he was overheard calling her “bigoted.”

Journalists on the campaign trail have been repeatedly complaining there’s no spontaneity. What they mean is that no one has made any mistakes — gaffes as they call them or anything that can have “gate” attached to its end.

So “Duffygate” was manna from heaven. Unaware a broadcast microphone was still on when he got back into his car, the prime minister described Duffy as “sort of a bigoted woman”.

Reporters immediately relayed the prime minister’s comments to Duffy who said she would no longer vote Labour.

Brown was forced to apologise. And then even more bizarrely, the prime minister’s cavalcade turned up at the pensioner’s Rochdale home and Brown went into her house.

He was in there for nearly 45 minutes as 24-hour news channels kept the door in shot as if they were filming the outcome of a papal election.

He was grinning when he finally came out and said Duffy had accepted his apology. He was a “penitent sinner”. There was no corroboration from her.  She wanted the media to get out of her driveway.

So what does it mean for Brown? Probably a storm in a teacup. Cringeworthy as the apology was, he might get the benefit of the doubt from people who understand people make mistakes.

That is especially true when the ubiquity of mobile phones means everyone knows someone who has said the wrong thing while making a pocket call.

The danger for Brown is that he’s seen as two-faced but the current state of the polls seem to indicate no one trusts politicians anyway.

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