What Gordon Brown muttered under his breath, in the car, was silly.
But it wasn’t unprofessional. Unprofessional is when you are in the public eye and you forget yourself and slip up. Gordon Brown was not.
This was a private conversation.
Personally, and politically, I just don’t care how many trips to the hospital for his son a party leader has made in his life, or what he felt when he lost a child, or how he proposed to his wife. (And, really privately, images of Sam-Cam baby-making and Gordon Brown being romantic… for a Scot just fails.)
If I’m being asked to vote for someone to be Prime Minister, what I want to know is, above and beyond him as a person, I want to know his expertise, political and philosophical, and what he can do.
Not, necessarily, promises and policies of what he will do. I don’t know what I’m doing over the next four years, exactly, to every intricate detail, and so I don’t agree with the raising of the bar so high that no one can realistically live up to it – outlining policy to precision is not worth demanding. Things change. Life surprises. I want to know that politicians will, whatever happens, adapt in our best interests. I expect that people, given power, will learn from experience, and CAN help us all out of tricky situations.
Gordon Brown’s much-hyped gaffe yesterday, though, is neither here nor there. And from the reporters that made such a fuss about it, I’d really like to know what the fuss is all about.
As a scribbled note, accidently photocopied, and produced with a public speech, or a written document, it would be sloppy, shocking and, quite frankly, abominable.
If Gordon Brown wrote Gillian Duffy is a bigoted woman on Twitter, or Facebook, it would be a legitimate cause for an online flurry, and it would be phenomenally stupid. Almost as stupid as, say, raging against the snow by declaring you’re going to blow up Robin Hood airport.
And, as the BBC reminds us, John Prescott’s defensive act of violence is certainly cause for concern.
On the other hand, there is this.
Gordon Brown was unprepared, unscripted, and spin-free. He could have ducked into his car and not stopped for Gillian Duffy. But he didn’t. Instead, he had a detailed conversation with a randomly passing woman, Mrs Gillian Duffy, in the middle of a street in Rochdale. He handled her questions well, she felt, and she was impressed. Her parting words, actually, were that the education system in Rochdale is a brilliant achievement. He gave her more time “than most broadcast journalists have had with the Prime Minister during this campaign” as Sky News’ reporter Neil Patterson pointed out, with an amusing whine.
Moments later, we find Gordon Brown rushed into his car, with no time for a breather. He is in an enclosed, private, environment, surrounded by trusted political allies (who decided to play the recorded conversation back), and his microphone was accidently left on.
And what did this “demon” dare to do?
In such close quarters, he muttered. Barely audibly. Under his breath.
Which isn’t that bad, really, is it?
Shut up. Gillian Duffy was UPSET, okay?
His comment was that she was a “bigoted woman”.
Now. The first thing I would ask, which happens to be the question that the hyper reporting of this event failed to ask, is WHAT Gillian Duffy said to provoke such an accusation.
She insists she only asked about the national debt.
I do not believe for one second that Gordon Brown, the one with the expertise, patience and life’s experience with the state of Britain’s economy, would accuse someone of being bigoted just for asking about the national debt.
Gordon Brown clarifies, in his public apology on the radio, that he was referring to her question of immigration which he could not respond to. He was referring to the view expressed, not her as a person. Her as a person, he had already said it was nice to meet.
And shall I tell you why Gillian Duffy, rightly or wrongly, ruffled Gordon Brown?
Well, I’m going to defend my opinion, right here. That. Is. Bigoted.
Of course you can’t say anything to answer that question! It’s a tautology. The eastern Europeans are flocking from… er, let me guess, eastern Europe?
I mean no offense to the question itself, you understand. It’s a fairly attractive one. It has some pleasant alliteration, there’s a nice rhythm to it, it’s grammatically correct. It functions well, as a question.
It’s just a stupid question.
And the view expressed is haughty ignorance of the lives of eastern Europeans who come here. And a further lack of sympathy for the drastic life changes that eastern Europeans go through to uproot from their home and come here in the first place, let alone any comprehension of how they feel when greeted by this kind of attitude. In her mind, they are seen as mere birds flocking here with the annoying habit of settling and nesting where they are comfortable. Rather than people who have feelings too.
But, no, I don’t mean to undermine her feelings.
When the Sky News live reporting team got her in the street, she was rather contemptuous of the fact Gordon Brown had decided to wander through this part of Rochdale – “what’s he doing here?!” – and not in the town centre. And, when Sky News gives her rather longer than a lot of A-list celebrities get on live television, she has the audacity to prioritise answering her mobile phone, and not bothering to tell the person at the other end of the line that she is on live television. That shows how important she thinks this is. She just seemed wholly underwhelmed by the whole affair.
I wonder if this is what she was like with Gordon Brown?
Shut up, this is NEWS, okay? Do not ask such impertinent questions. Can’t you see the poor woman is traumatised?
I just have one question for Gillian Duffy.
Why is she taking this so personally?
Gordon Brown, in his apology, clarified to his credit that it was the view that she expressed, not her as a person, that he had said was bigoted.
But the Sky News team jumped on the opportunity for what Gillian Duffy can say about Gordon Brown’s character.
And she only protested that she only met him for two minutes or so (6-7 minutes, actually), so she couldn’t possibly make such a judgment on him as a man.
Listen, Gillian Duffy, it works both ways. If you can’t make a personal attack on his character after meeting him for that period of time, then why are you so certain that his comment was a personal attack on YOU?
Because, I am not.
BBC News hinted this as the defining moment in the election campaign. An insight into his character.
It was that important? Really? But, isn’t that what is so wrong about politics? It’s personality over policies?
See, Gordon Brown is running the country right now. The Sun thinks he caused the global credit crunch. People I speak to take a random dislike to him. And he’s no likeable Tony Blair, as Gillian Duffy will gladly tell you. He only got 9% on The Daily Mail Online opinion poll after the last T.V. party leader’s debates. And, he’s still doing a good job. He’s holding up.
Does he not need the release of a barely audible, hardly surprising, very brief muttered judgment about a woman who assaulted him with questions? Which he dealt with in such a good manner than she felt “happy” about it all?
And, he said it was a disaster. What I don’t understand is why he felt it was such a disaster, when he actually did so well. Could it be that he was not actually referring to what we think he was referring to? Or could it be that he reflects upon himself harshly, in addition to the rest of the media?
Accidents don’t happen. They are caused.
Does the Prime Minister not have advisors? Allies? Friends? Or is one man an island?
Well, then. He should have been reminded to switch his microphone off.
His “bigot” comment wasmade a full 20-30 seconds AFTER he was out of the public eye that this provoked comment was finally out. In fact, it was AFTER he was ASKED, by the person he was in the car with, to elaborate on what he thought. It
Who was this person?
And another thing…
…there is the ultimate matter of burden of proof.
I beg you to explain the relationship between this comment uttered by Gordon Brown, and the emphatic conclusion that he is an incapable, useless, or otherwise bad Prime Minister?
And, while you are at it, explain to me what the relationship is between the fact that a man has lost his child, and his abilities at being Prime Minister.
There isn’t one. Anywhere.
And, let’s face it, the headlines for this event are just not good enough. The over-used “Brown’s gaffe” has missed a perfect pun opportunity. It should be Brown’s Blunder… or Gordon’s Gaffe. Brown’s gaffe is just uninspiring. C’mon, headline writers, don’t lose your grip now, it’s the all important election week… don’t drop the ball now!
And don’t get caught out muttering personal attacks on Gordon Brown… oh, no, wait, the media are allowed to do that. And so are the entire voting population.
And what is Gordon Brown allowed to do?