The British love failure, and nothing pleases us more than when the powerful end up putting their foot in it.
Contribution by Mr S.Pill
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few hours, you’ll have seen that today Gordon Brown referred to a voter – Gillian Duffy – as a “bigoted woman” after she brought up the issue of immigration with him.
As has been noted, the original conversation actually made Brown look good – he answered her questions with politeness and understanding, and according to sources she had been persuaded to vote Labour once more.
It was, then, unfortunate in the extreme that Brown – perhaps unused to media-management – neglected to check his microphone and made the remarks he did.
It’s no secret that Brown has a temper; indeed just before the election stories were flowing of bullying going on at Number 10, mobile phones being thrown, backroom staff being on the end of torrents of verbal abuse. The difference now is that the public have had a glimpse of Gordon Brown in his natural environment – and it’s not really a pleasant sight.
But no-one comes out of this incident looking peachy.
Gordon Brown, obviously, should not go around insulting voters. At a time when Labour is reaching record lows in the polls they need every vote they can get and this incident will not play well with those yet to make their mind up. The somewhat forced apology also only reinforces that there are many things we’ve not had an apology for from Labour – the Iraq war, the erosion of civil liberties, the utter failure on constitutional reform et cetera ad nauseum.
Mrs Duffy, on the other hand, should not escape criticism for being ignorant of immigration policy, particularly in relation to the EU. It’s been fact for a very long time that EU law permits free travel between member states – hence why around 800,000 British people live and work in Spain, and why no decent party can say immigration from and to the EU will stop. If Mrs Duffy doesn’t like the huge benefits of migrant labour and the EU in general, and if the arguments have not been made sufficiently, then there are other parties she could vote for. If she merely doesn’t like foreigners working in the UK then yes, frankly, she is a bigot.
The media, too, do not come off well in their reporting of this incident. On a day when all three major parties were accused of hiding huge spending cuts, Labour unveil plans for yet more CCTV, the Conservatives sack a homophobic PPC, and UKIP back the Tories the best the media can do is camp outside a pensioners house in Rochdale. Waiting, hoping, and praying that their literal press-ganging will gift them that oh-so important interview with Mrs Duffy.
According to some reports she has been offered £50,000 by one tabloid newspaper, which should ensure this spectacle of the absurd will drag on and on. With wearisome predictability it has already been dubbed “bigotgate”, which does tempt me to propose a new ‘suffix law’, insofar as the next journalist to add “-gate” to any scandal would be shot.
Lastly, there is us. Yes, dear reader, you and I are also at fault here – in that we love this stuff. We love getting high and mighty, arguing the ins and outs, the whys and wherefores, the yes-buts and no-buts. Like a well-rehearsed scene we know how the shocked’n'appalled script goes and we just change the characters.
It is our lust for these so-called human-interest stories that turn such molehills into mountains, typhoons furiously raging in the tea-stained china while we email, tweet, blog, text, phone, facebook-update the outrageous news that someone, somewhere, has done something wrong. The British love failure, and nothing pleases us more than when the powerful end up putting their foot in it.
This will, with any luck, be old news by 10pm tomorrow night – the final leaders’ debate before May 6th. Notwithstanding another incident like todays, there is still everything to play for.
Mr S. Pill blogs at the excellent Sugar the Pill.