“She Was Just A Sort Of Bigoted Woman”

Much of this already rounded up by Andrew Sullivan.

Andrew Sullivan:

Here’s the full transcript, revealing the fakeness of Brown and his contempt for the voters:

Duffy: We had it drummed in when I was a child with mine … 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: 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: 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?

Later, as he was leaving

Brown: Very good to meet you, and you’re wearing the right colour today. Ha, ha, ha: How many grandchildren do you have?

Duffy: Two. They’ve just got back from Australia where they got stuck for 10 days. They couldn’t get back with this ash crisis.

Brown: We’ve been trying to get people back quickly. Are they going to university. Is that the plan?

Duffy: I hope so. They’re only 12 and 10.

Brown: Are they’re doing well at school? [pats Duffy on the back] A good family, good to see you. It’s very nice to see you.

In the car

Brown: That was a disaster. Well I just … should never have put me in that woman. Whose idea was that?

Aide: I don’t know, I didn’t see.

Brown: It was Sue [Nye] I think. It was just ridiculous.

Aide: I’m not sure if they [the media] will go with that.

Brown: They will go with that.

Aide: What did she say?

Brown: Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.

Andrew Rawnsley at The Guardian:

Brown’s problem is that this episode shows him acting not out of character, but entirely in it. It will be rightly taken as evidence of the less attractive dimensions of his personality. Note that it happens because he stresses over the trivial and becomes infuriated by anything or anybody that disturbs his idea of himself as a man in iron control. Mrs Duffy was far from the most tricky customer ever to confront a politician. In fact, he dealt with the initial encounter reasonably well. She even said she was going to vote Labour. Calling it “a disaster” was an over-reaction to a fairly humdrum moment on the campaign trail.

We see also a glimpse of Brown’s tendency to instantly assign fault for a setback to someone else. “You should never have put me with that woman,” he complains to his aides. “Whose idea was that?” This too fits a pattern common to many of the temper episodes that I revealed in The End of the Party. When he was accused of plagiarising Al Gore and Bill Clinton, he turned on his advisers. “How could you do this to me?” he raged. When Revenue & Customs lost the notorious data disks, the prime minister instantly saw himself as the victim. He grabbed his startled deputy chief of staff by the lapels and snarled: “They’re out to get me!”

One of the most unattractive aspects of Brown’s premiership has been a blame culture at the heart of government. One target was Alistair Darling, who was on the receiving end of the “forces from hell” when he was more candid about the economy than his next-door neighbour could stand.

Fraser Nelson at The Spectator:

We have just witnessed the biggest moment of the 2010 election campaign. It wasn’t that Brown let off steam: it was that he instinctively described as “bigoted” a woman who represents what should be Labour’s core vote. Sure, she mentioned immigration – but just said “where are they coming from”? Her main concern was the national debt, and what her grandchildren will have to pay. Neither Cameron or Clegg would have thought these points bigoted – and neither would Tony Blair. The thought would not have crossed his mind. Nor that of Kinnock, Foot or Callaghan. Labour’s campaign is led by a man who dislikes campaigning, having to get down and dirty with ordinary voters. He doesn’t like standing for election. “Whose idea was that?” He asked when inside the car. Whose idea was what? Democracy? Meeting angry voters is what elections are about. If Brown doesn’t like it, he’s in the wrong business.

Andrew Swift at Foreign Policy:

The episode brings to light President Barack Obama’s infamous “bitter” remarks regarding small-town voters before the Pennsylvania democratic presidential primary in 2008. But Obama was merely guilty of poor word choice, not outright hostility — and the substantive point he made was largely accurate. Brown, on the other hand, has been caught disparaging a voter immediately after hearing her policy concerns.

British journalists are claiming this will cripple Brown, as voters with similar concerns will now wonder whether the prime minister thinks they’re bigots as well. But to be fair, if Duffy’s comment  wasn’t bigoted, it was certainly quite close to crossing that line.

Brown has now personally apologized to Duffy (it is said it went quite well), and reporters are camped on her front stoop, waiting for her response. More to come.

UPDATE: It’s pointed out on Andrew Sparrow’s live blog for the Guardian that Brown’s exact quote was “sort of a bigoted woman,” which is somewhat less harsh.

Alex Smith at Labor List:

Gordon Brown has sent the following email to Labour supporters:

As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.

I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make.

Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.

I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.

But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.

The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.

You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.



Alex Massie:

Two other things: Brown comes out of this looking petty, spiteful and small, blaming his advisors for not “vetting” an ordinary voter and, worse coming across as a candidate too weak or too afraid to engage voters on the issues that most concern them.

In this instance this seems to have been immigration and, specifically, immigration from within the EU. Apparently Mrs Duffy doesn’t like all those eastern europeans coming over here to work. Doubtless many voters – hell, many blog commenters – share her views. (Never mind that many of these workers have since gone home.) But rather than debate her or defend the government’s policy Brown offers platitudes in public before castigating Duffy in private. This is not the way Big Men behave. Nor do they presume, on little evidence, that those who disagree with them are “bigots”.

From what we know of her opinions – and the tabloids will ensure we hear what Mrs Duffy thinks about everything – I’d say that “bigot” is much too strong a term. Nevertheless, Brown ducked the argument and this in turn reinforces his image as a “bottler”.

This despite the fact that, as readers know, I think opening the British labour market to the new EU-member countries was one of the best, even noble, things this government has done. If you believe that Britons should be able to work across the EU it’s logical to believe that Poles and Lats should be able to as well. And if you believe in the free movement of goods and capital then there’s a certain logic to believing in the free movement of labour too. And you can also believe that the accession of the eastern european states has been one of the greatest advances in liberty (at least in some sense of the term) since 1989.

You don’t have to agree with this argument and it’s not disreputable not to but Gordon could still have made this argument, he could have made a case for himself and his party’s record. But he chose not to. This too is feeble. And, alas, all too typical.

So, really, whatever way you look at it this is a terrible moment for Gordon, made worse by his determination to prolong the agony by returning to Rochdale to apologise to Mrs Duffy in person. As though this will make any difference or persuade anyone of anything.

Kevin Drum:

Poor Gordon. I mean, at some point you almost have to feel sorry for a guy so badly suited to politics. Nick Clegg must practically be cackling. You can watch the whole debacle on the right. The insults come at around the 4:30 mark.

Rod Dreher:

I should add that as entertaining as this sort of thing is, I do feel sorry for politicians and other famous people, who always, always, always have to assume that they’re “on.” Can you imagine having to live as if there were constantly a microphone around, recording your words? I actually defended Jesse Jackson on this point when a hot mike caught him saying some discreditable things about Barack Obama. What he said was awful, and I wasn’t sorry to see him suffer for it. But it’s still queasy-making, I think, the way we all hover around, waiting for somebody famous to say something stupid, and then blow it up. Which, come to think of it, is what I’m doing with this blog entry.

Ben Smith and David Weigel at Bloggingheads


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