General Election 2010: Gordon Brown's 'bigot' comment - listen to it here and have your say
GORDON Brown made a "dreadful mistake" when he branded a pensioner a "bigoted woman" but that did not make him a monster, one of his senior Cabinet colleagues said today.
As the Prime Minister tried to focus on tonight’s third and final televised leaders’ debate, Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he had been mortified by his unguarded comments about 66-year-old Gillian Duffy.
He said Mr Brown had insisted on going to Mrs Duffy’s home in Rochdale to apologise in person after his remarks to an aide were picked up by a television microphone and broadcast around the world.
"His sensitivity, his humanity, said ’Look, I have to go and talk to this woman’ because he made a dreadful mistake," Mr Johnson told BBC1’s Breakfast programme.
And he insisted that voters like Mrs Duffy, who expressed concern about immigration, were not bigoted and Labour did not regard the issue as being off-limits in the General Election campaign.
"Bigoted, unreasonably prejudiced and intolerant certainly doesn’t apply to Mrs Duffy," he said. "Mrs Duffy isn’t bigoted, Gordon isn’t a monster and the issue of immigration isn’t off limits."
But shadow chief treasury secretary Philip Hammond said voters would draw their own conclusions from Mr Brown’s remarks.
"What I was most struck by was the difference between what he said to Mrs Duffy when he was chatting to her and what he said about Mrs Duffy when he was in what he thought was the privacy of his own car," he told Sky News.
"People will draw their own conclusions about that."
Labour strategists had been hoping that tonight’s debate focusing on the economy would be an opportunity to regain ground in a campaign which has seen them trailing in third place in the polls for much of the time.
But they found themselves trying to pick up the pieces from the fall-out of his explosive chance encounter with Mrs Duffy, who had just popped out to buy a loaf of bread.
Cast your vote on the next page about what you think this incident could mean for Gordon Brown and Labour.