Gillian Duffy opens Rochdale constituency office

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Indy Politics

The grandmother at the centre of Gordon Brown's "bigotgate" election disaster made another foray into politics - in support of his party.

Gillian Duffy, who the former Prime Minister branded a "bigoted woman" came this time not to bury Labour but to praise them.

She was guest of honour at the official opening of the Rochdale constituency office of the Lancashire town's new MP Simon Danczuk - the victorious Labour candidate.

The plain-speaking life-long Labour voter was credited with being a major, if inadvertent, reason for the downfall of Mr Brown.

Mrs Duffy had only popped to the shops for a loaf of bread when she came across the PM, tackled him on immigration - and moments later he forgot to turn off his microphone.

Amongst a media frenzy, a crestfallen Mr Brown was shown, head in hands, as the gaffe was repeated to him on a radio show.

Within hours the "mortified" PM made a damage-limitation personal apology back at her pebble-dashed mid-terrace home - accompanied by the world's media.

Last night Mrs Duffy shared a finger buffet and drinks with a smattering of local Labour supporters as guest of honour at the official opening.

The 66-year-old said: "I never wanted to hurt the Labour Party at all. I wanted them to get in at the last election.

"I felt very sorry for Gordon Brown, because he had everything to lose. He's been in politics a very, very long time, it's his life.

"I got a lot of cards and letters and not one of them was against me in any way.

"From all over the country they were all on the same thing, they agreed with what I asked and I only asked the question what ordinary people wanted to know the answer to.

"A lot of politicians don't have good reputations. Then it kind of gave everybody the thought that it's true what they must be thinking about ordinary people."

Mrs Duffy didn't cast her postal vote, like millions of other traditional Labour voters who deserted the party in May, though she still hoped Mr Danczuk would win despite the furore.

For the local Labour hopeful having the Prime Minister visit is normally a coup - until he opened his mouth.

Mrs Duffy added: "I thought, 'That lad's not going to get in now'. I never wanted that, I wanted a Labour MP for Rochdale.

"I was going to get in touch with Simon and go and talk to him for winning the seat, I was so thrilled for him."

Mr Danczuk said local political grandees are usually invited to open new MP's offices, their names engraved on the brass plaques for posterity.

Instead, for a party that came to be seen by many Labour voters as too London-centric, distant and out of touch, the new MP decided his office should be opened by a genuine voice of Rochdale.

"They are straight talking, not slow in coming forward and say what the issues are that needs dealing with," he said.

"Local residents are the key to politics and politicians.

"To have a local resident like Gillian, a well known local resident, I think she is the ideal person, I think it makes complete sense.

"We speak every three or four days now, we talk about politics, we've become friends."