Leading article: More a lapse than a catastrophe

Share
Related Topics

There is probably not a politician in history who has never been tempted to say what Gordon Brown said yesterday about a member of the voting public.

Mr Brown's mistakes – and they were serious mistakes – were to yield to temptation, and to forget that he was still wearing a microphone before he let off steam. Blaming his aides for what he called a "disaster" and, worse, calling Gillian Duffy a "bigoted woman" may well go down as the gaffe of this campaign. There will be a cost.

How high that cost turns out to be depends on the response of the rest of the voting public. Mr Brown's own response was to make an abject apology on the radio and then return to Rochdale to prostrate himself, metaphorically, before Mrs Duffy in her own home. Forty minutes later, he described himself as a "penitent sinner" and said that his apology had been accepted. He went out of his way to use the word "sorry". There was no word from Mrs Duffy.

Mr Brown's unguarded remarks have the potential to cause particular electoral damage. First, because they chime with the Prime Minister's reputation for being rude and short-tempered. Second, because they reinforce a widespread view of politicians as contemptuous of those whose votes they must periodically solicit. And, third, because they demonstrate the extent to which campaigning has become stage-managed. Mr Brown took it for granted that he should have been protected from awkward customers. If there were more encounters between party leaders and "ordinary" voters, perhaps both sides would be better able to take the less-than-perfect ones in their stride.

That the other parties will continue to make hay with Mr Brown's gaffe must be taken for granted – for all the efforts of Labour's smooth-talkers to "spin" it away. Yet how many people can honestly say they have never let off steam in a similar way? You can argue that, as Prime Minister, Mr Brown has a responsibility to be more careful, even that someone in his position should not even think the thoughts he carelessly articulated. Our view is that this moment has to be set in the wider context and kept in proportion.

This evening, in the crucial last televised debate, Mr Brown will defend his record in government and set out Labour's plans for the national economy. The country faces a difficult few years; we need to listen to what the three party leaders say on the big issues of the day. Gordon Brown's lapse in Rochdale is not one of them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Finance Manager - Central London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Business Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
Rachel Reeves is the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary  

What are we voting for? No one knows

Stefano Hatfield
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor