Gordon Brown has met precious few real voters during the course of the campaign – as David Cameron has been saying, the PM has been going from "safe house to safe house", only meeting Labour Party activists.
And today we got a glimpse of what happens when he does meet a real person who deigns to disagree with him.
A woman in Rochdale – who had always voted Labour before – engaged with him on a number of issues this morning and according to Channel Four News, this is what his microphone picked him up saying on getting back into his car:
"You should never have put
me with that woman. Whose idea was that? Sue's I think. Everything she said – she's just a bigoted woman."
I suspect we can safely conclude she is now a former Labour voter.
I am still trying to track down the video/audio footage but will post it as and when it appears.
The woman, Gillian Duffy, has been tracked down by the BBC and Sky News, both of which have been running a live interview with her in their rolling new channels. She has confirmed she will not be voting Labour now and has said she is upset by what he said. She has said that she wants an apology from Brown and an explanation of why he thought she was a bigot.
Brown had the tape played back to him while appearing live on the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 and said he the media hadn't given him a chance to answer her question about immigration, adding that by having the microphone on he thought he was being helpful to the broadcasters, clearly angry that his "private conversation" had been broadcast. He did apologise for his remark.
Tory Rascal has produced this take on the incident:
Downing Street has confirmed that Brown has telephoned Mrs Duffy to apologise for his remarks, with a spokesman saying:
"He does not think that she is bigoted. He was letting off steam in the car after a difficult conversation. But this is exactly the sort of conversation that is important in an election campaign and which he will continue to have with voters."
Brown has returned to Rochdale to apologise to Mrs Duffy in person. Before we get reaction after the meeting, here are other relevant links:
After nearly 45 minutes insider her house, Brown emerges and says that she has accepted her apology and that he is a "penitent sinner" who has apologised for what he said. He said he had misunderstood what she said to him this morning and that sometimes you say things you don't mean.
"I've just been talking to Gillian. I'm mortified by what's happened.
I've given her my sincere apologies. I misunderstood what she said, and
she has accepted there was a misunderstanding and has accepted my
apology. If you like, I'm a repentant sinner. Sometimes you say
things you don't mean to say, sometimes you say things by mistake and
sometimes you say things you want to correct very quickly.
wanted to come here and say that I made a mistake but to also to say I
understood the concerns she was bringing to me and I simply
misunderstood some of the words she used. I made my apology.
come here – it's been a chance to talk to Gillian about her family, her
relatives and her own history and what she has done, but most of all
it's been a chance to apologise and say sorry, and to say sometimes you
do make mistakes and you use the wrong words and once you've used the
wrong word and made a mistake you should withdraw it and say profound
apologies and that's what I've done."
Brown has just emailed the following apology to Labour Party members (hat tip: James Forsyth):
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
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.
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.
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.
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.