“Education, health, and helping people, that’s what I’m about,” Gordon Brown told Labor supporter Gillian Duffy during his meeting with her on the street in Rochdale. Now we know that’s not all Prime Minister Brown is about.
Unaware that the microphone he was wearing remained live, Prime Minister Brown unburdened himself of his thoughts. Parting from Ms. Duffy with the politician’s phony bonhomie, Brown climbed into his car and declared: “That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? Ridiculous.” He also condemned Duffy as “a bigoted woman.”
Advised of his remarks by a reporter after Brown had departed the scene, the (former) Brown supporter looked like she’d been speared in the side. The reporter was of course blissfully unconcerned about the possible impact on Ms. Duffy, who was understandably mortified. (The Guardian has posted the relevant audio and video clips here).
In her exchange with Prime Minister Brown, Ms. Duffy seems to have been concerned about the combination of immigration and the welfare state. She didn’t really get much of a chance to flesh out her thoughts. Here is the exchange as reported by the Guardian:
“We had it drummed in when I was a child … it was education, health service and looking after the people who are vulnerable. But there’s too many people now who are vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can’t get claim, can’t get it.”
Brown replied: “But they shouldn’t be doing that, there is no life on the dole for people any more. If you are unemployed you’ve got to go back to work. It’s six months…”
Duffy interjected: “You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re … but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?”
Brown said that although there were 1 million immigrants to Europe from Britain, there were also 1 million Britons who had moved to Europe.
At the end of the exchange Brown said: “Good to see you. Thanks very much.” He got in the car and seconds later is heard saying: “That was a disaster,” before calling Duffy “bigoted”.
Ms. Duffy sounds a bit like the small-town Pennsylvanians Barack Obama disparaged behind closed doors in San Francisco during the primary campaign. As you may recall, according to Obama, “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” It’s a malady that is reaching epidemic proportions.
Prime Minister Brown regrets any offense Ms. Duffy might have taken at being called a disaster and a bigot. As reported by the Guardian (and as can be seen on the video), Prime Minister Brown apologized in the current political style: “I apologise if I have said anything like that[. W]hat I think she was raising with me was an issue about immigration and that there were too many people from eastern Europe. I apologise profusely to the lady concerned[.] I don’t think she is that. It was the view I objected to.”
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has more. Via Ed,s post, the embeddable video above shows Ms. Duffy being apprised of Prime Minister’s Brown’s behind-the-back disparagement of her. It shouldn’t happen to a, well, a lifelong Labor supporter!