Gillian Duffy talking to whatsis’name
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Labour’s election campaign was in disarray tonight after Gordon Brown was forced to apologise to a pensioner and lifelong party supporter whom he had described as “a bigoted woman” for questioning him over the scale of immigration from eastern Europe.
His contemptuous dismissal of Gillian Duffy, made in private but caught by a live broadcast feed, again raised questions about his volatile character and, more importantly, whether the Labour core vote would be repelled by his apparent indifference to their concerns.
Morale in the Labour campaign slumped as even some of Brown’s closest aides vented their fury at him, with one describing him as “a pathetic blame shifter”. Others voiced concern that it would appear that he was two-faced…
Brown had met Duffy, 65, on the streets of Rochdale when she accosted him over a range of issues including the scale of debt, taxes and tuition fees. At one point during the discussion she referred to eastern Europeans “flocking” to Britain.
After an apparently pleasant conclusion to the conversation and closing his car door, Brown turned to his director of strategic communications, Justin Forsyth, declaring the event a “disaster” and demanding to know who was responsible for him meeting Duffy. He appeared to blame his longstanding aide Sue Nye.
Asked by Forsyth what Duffy had said he replied: “Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”
The separation between professional politicians and the rest of us isn’t limited to any particular creed. It’s the rare individual politician who seeks and maintains contact with the lives of ordinary working people.
I could launch into praise for the few who are capable, the small number of pols who stay in touch with the life most of us lead. The fact is that most of the lawyers, beancounters, others who make politics a lifetime career are climbers. They seek power and position. And questions of leadership on solutions to human questions soon become nothing more than campaign slogans.
I may be a cynic; but, I doubt I am very far from describing the core principles of those representing real power in most nations.