Song fails to appease OAPs after political gatecrashing

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The Independent Online

It should have been a great photo-opportunity for Kevin Rudd, who hopes to become the next prime minister of Australia. Instead, the Labour Party leader was ticked off for gatecrashing a senior citizens' party in Tasmania yesterday, and called an "ignorant bastard" by one elderly guest.

The incident took place as Mr Rudd campaigned in the marginal constituency of Braddon, one of 16 seats that Labour must win in order to oust John Howard's Conservative government next month.

The pensioners' club in the northern town of Devonport was marking its 43rd birthday, which seemed a god-sent opportunity for Mr Rudd to display how well he gets on with older people.

The problem was that, although the club was told in the morning that Mr Rudd and his entourage would be turning up, the information did not filter through to some guests. Sausage rolls and sandwiches were laid out and the choir was performing Dean Martin's " That's Amore" when Mr Rudd arrived unannounced with Labour candidate Sid Sidebottom. According to reports, the club's piano-accordion player immediately stormed off the stage, angry that the Opposition leader had interrupted his wife's singing. One guest, 74-year-old David Vowles, marched up to Mr Rudd and Mr Sidebottom and told them: "You spoiled the party, you ignorant bastards." Mr Vowles, who declared himself "not a bloody Labour man anyway", later complained that the pair had transformed the occasion into a "political gathering".

Mr Rudd tried to placate those present by singing "The Carnival Is Over", originally written for an Australian group, The Seekers. Afterwards he apologised, saying he was under the impression that he was invited to the party. "I fully accept responsibility for the misunderstanding," he said. He added: "The great thing about the country is that people have different views, and they should be able to put those views."