|Gordon's on-mic "bigot" gaffe Posted by Ian at 12 35 PM on Wednesday, April 28|
Gordon Brown was left reeling from the first spin catastrophe of the election campaign today he was caught on microphone calling lifelong Labour voter who had quizzed him about immigration "a bigot".
The Labour Party leader accidentally left his mic switched on after a meet-and-greet with locals in Rochdale.
And as he got back into his armoured car following the exchange with retired care worker Gillian Duffy, 66 - who lost her husband to cancer - he raged at an aide: "You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It's just ridiculous."
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The unguarded comment was quickly picked up by web news outlets and the phrase #bigotgate began trending on twitter within minutes.
Commentators say it is damaging because, just days before the election, it is the first real evidence the public has seen of Gordon's rumoured behind-the-scenes temper tantrums.
He stormed: "That was a disaster," before laying the blame for the unfortunate encounter on his aide Sue Nye, for fixing for them to meet.
He then slagged off the Labour voting pensioner, saying: "Everything she said, she's just a bigoted woman".
To her face, Brown said: It was been very good to meet you - and you are wearing the right colour today. How are your granchildren? Good to see you."
Brown has a notorious bad temper, but this is the first time his frequent rages have been caught on camera.
The outburst also shows the Labour Party's claim that the PM wants to go out and meet "normal voters" is completely false.
Shortly afterwards Mr Brown was played a tape of his remarks during an interview on BBC Radio 2 - and explained that he had been upset by the fact that he had not been able to give her a clear answer on her question about immigration.
"Of course I apologise if I've said anything offensive, and I would never want to put myself in a position where I would say anything like that," he said.
But after hearing what the Prime Minister had said Mrs Duffy said was not in the mood for apologies.
"He is an educated person, why did he come out with words like that?" she said.
"He is going to lead this country and an ordinary woman comes up and asks him questions, like most people would, about why they are not doing anything about the national debt and whether it is going to mean years of higher taxes - and he calls me a bigot?"
Mrs Duffy accused Mr Brown of being aloof and out of touch, recommending that he go out in public more and find out what was going on in the lives of ordinary people.
She described how she had come upon the Prime Minister by chance, after noticing the police cordon near a patch of woodland outside the centre of Rochdale, where Mr Brown was meeting convicted offenders carrying out community payback duties.
"So I thought I would ask him what he was going to do about the national debt," Mrs Duffy explained. "I thought he was understanding, but he wasn't, was he? The way he has come out with these comments in the car. I only met him for three, four minutes.
"In the past he hasn't really enthralled me with his speeches. I liked Blair, I liked Tony Blair. When he was Chancellor he [Mr Brown] did very good things for the country, but now it has all gone to pot. He has got to sort it out or my grandchildren will be paying for all the national debt."
"I don't think I would like to speak to him again at all," Mrs Duffy added. "Do you think I need an apology off him? I think so, yes. Not a personal apology.
"I don't want to speak to him again really. I want to know why those comments were said, why he called me a bigot. That's all."