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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence