Brown borks it

Gordon Brown’s chances of retaining the position of British Prime Minister plunged this week after a stunning gaffe on the election campaign trail in which he was heard dismissing a voter who questioned British immigration policy as ‘a bigoted woman’.

He was further embarrassed when the incident dominated the media ahead of the final election debate tonight.

Mr Brown has said Labour are in “the fight of our lives” to hold onto power after 13 years. The opposition Conservatives are first in all the opinion polls, with Labour and the smaller Liberal Democrats, or Lib Dems, vying for second place.

Mr Brown, whose critics paint him as a socially unskilled bully, was recorded yesterday complaining about a widow who had challenged his government’s immigration policy, as well as the aides who allowed her to address him.

After an apparently good-natured conversation on a range of political issues, Mr Brown said it had been “very good” to meet 66-year-old Gillian Duffy, before slipping into his prime ministerial Jaguar to be sped away.

However, having forgotten to remove his television microphone, his real thought sabout the encounter were recorded by broadcasters.

“That was a disaster. They should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s Sue I think. It’s just ridiculous,” he told Justin Forsyth, his director of strategic communications.

Asked what she had said, Mr Brown replied: “Everything. She was just a bigoted woman.”

Ironically, Mrs Duffy said she had been convinced to once again vote Labour and described Brown as “a nice man” before his private feelings of the exchange emerged.

The incident took place in Rochdale in the north of England, an area which has experienced significant immigration from Britain’s former colonies in south Asia.

Brown later apologised to Mrs Duffy in person during a 40-minute meeting at her home, but his efforts may not prevent the alienation of a swathe of Labour voters.

Mr Brown’s blunder dominated front pages today as commentators agreed it would severely damage Labour’s campaign.

“Day of disaster” was the headline of the Daily Telegraph. “Brown ‘penitent’ after bigot gaffe torpedoes campaign,” said the Guardian.

Brown said today that while he understood the “worries” people have about immigration, he wanted to put the episode behind him.

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