The ‘bigot-gate’ scandal surrounding Gordon Brown today is likely to deeply hurt Labour’s chances of winning the hearts and minds of working class Britons and could unintentionally help right wing groups.
Brown’s comments- read them below and see the video here – were unknowingly picked up on a mike that was still turned on, and comes at the worst possible time- just days before the general election.
Whilst politicians have a long history of unintentionally making comments on a live mike, insulting an elderly grandmother is not what Brown, or any politician would seek to do at this time.
Brown’s incident rekindles memories of Jesse Jackson’s comments during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Jackson said that he wanted to, ‘cut [Obama’s] nuts off,’ whilst waiting to take part in a television interview.
Like Jackson, Brown has apologised profusely but this row is likely to continue well up to the election.
However, there is another very important element here- this incident provides the BNP with the perfect opportunity to say: ‘See- whenever an ordinary white person speaks about immigration, they are branded as a bigot!’
They’ve claimed that there hasn’t been a national debate about immigration because white people are scared of being called racist and bigoted. Brown’s inadvertent comments unfortunately and wrongly could give them a platform.
And for that reason, this incident is truly a disaster, not just for Brown and Labour, but for all fair minded people in this country.
Gordon Brown: You’re a very good woman, you’ve served the community all your life –
Gillian Duffy: I am, I’ve worked for the Rochdale council for 30 years…
Brown: Good. You deserve –
Duffy: And I work with children and handicapped children
Brown: Oh well working with children is so important isn’t it? Have you been at some of the children’s centres? –
Duffy: But what I can’t understand is why I am still being taxed at 66 years old because my husband’s died and I have some of his pension tagged onto my pension?
Brown: Well we’re raising the threshold at which people start paying tax as pensioners, but yes if you’ve got an occupational pension you may have to pay some tax but you may be eligible for the pension credit as well, you should check –
Duffy: No, no, I’m not, I’ve checked and checked and they said I’m not
Brown: Well you should check it again just to be sure, to be absolutely sure.
Duffy: Yes they’ve told me, I’ve been down to Rochdale council
Brown: And you know we’re linking pension to earnings in two years’ time, we’ve got the winter allowance as you know which I hope is of benefit, two fifty –
Duffy: I agree with that, it’s very good, but every year I speak to people of my age and they say ‘Oh well, they’ll be knocking it off’
Brown: We’ve done bus passes as well, free presciptions –
Duffy: But how are you going to get us out of all this debt, Gordon?
Brown: We’ve got a deficit reduction plan, cut the debt by half over the next four years, we’ve got the plans that have been set out to do it – look, I was the person who came in and said –
Duffy: Look, the three main things that I had drummed in when I was a child was education, health service and looking after people who are vulnerable. There are too many people now who aren’t vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can’t get claim.
Brown: But they shouldn’t be doing that, there is no life for people on the dole anymore, if you’re unemployed you’ve got to go back to work. At six months –
Duffy: You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying you’re – but all these eastern Europeans coming in, where are they flocking from?
Brown: A million people come in from Europe, but a million British people have gone into Europe, you do know there’s a lot of British people staying in Europe as well. So education, health and helping people, that’s what I’m about.
Duffy: I hope you keep to it.
Brown: It’s been very good to meet you. And you’re wearing the right colour today! How many grandchildren do you have?
Brown: What names are they?
Duffy: They’ve just come back from Australia where they’ve been stuck for ten days they couldn’t get back with this ash crisis.
Brown: They got through now?
Brown: We’ve been trying to get people back quickly. But are they going to university, is that the plan?
Duffy: I hope so. They’re only 12 and 10.
Brown: They’re only 12 and 10! But they’re doing well at school?
Duffy: Yes. Very good.
Brown: A good family. Good to see you.
Duffy: And the education system in Rochdale I will congratulate it
Brown: Good. Good to see you, take care.
[In car] That was a disaster. Should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that?
Aide: I don’t know, I didn’t see.
Brown: Sue’s, I think. Just ridiculous.
Aide: Not sure if they’ll go with that one.
Brown: Oh they will.
Aide: What did she say?
Brown: Everything. She’s just this sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be a Labour voter. Ridiculous.