All the important things in life – football, relationships, football – can be planned to within a gnat’s crotchet only to be knocked off course by something completely unexpected. The mother-in-law popping round for a cup of tea, the discovery of suspiciously worded text messages, the hitherto reliable centre-forward hacking the ball with such force in another context it could have been a hole-in-one along a tricky par 5….
As you may be aware, Gordon Brown today plunged himself into a controversy which would have made Malcolm Tucker turn the air twenty shades of puce. Predictably called “Bigotgate”, Brown made one of his “meeting ordinary people” trips into a great clunking fist of a disaster when he labelled a housewife “a bigot” for her views on immigration.
Clearly the media went batshit mental over his comment rather than her views (although, let us be honest here, Labour’s record on both immigration and assisting the unemployed is somewhat lacking…). Brown is entitled to his views, of course, but to call a potential elector such a word, at such a time in the election period, with Labour in third place in some opinion polls shows a total and complete lack of understanding of the greater picture.
It shows Brown has a lack of understanding and empathy, and a complete lack of control over his emotional outbursts.
Ms Duffy thought she had the chance to tell the Prime Minister exactly what she thought on the subjects close to her heart. That those views were somewhat lacking in facts and heavy in opinion would have been handled far better by most other political leaders (Blair would not have been anywhere near this level of knee-deep controversy).
Did he need to apologise ? Once, yes. So many times? And with Hallmark card sincerity?
Tomorrow is the third, and final Leaders Debate. With quite unfortunate timing, Brown has ensured any chance of Labour Party spin leading up to tomorrow will be shadowed by this event. Like Prescot’s Punch all those years ago, this whole affair will eventually become nothing more than a curiosity, a footnote. In the glare of the cameras, it is typical of a Prime Minister whose luck tends to last mere hours.
Tomorrow is the last chance for Brown, Cameron, and Clegg, to sell their Parties before polling day. As I was told many years ago by LibDem campaign experts, the last week of any election campaign is “repetition, repetition, and repetition”. For the next week, Labour will doubtlessly crawl out of this saga, just as the country is struggling to recover from the longest, deepest recession in modern times (thanks again, Gordon…)
Older readers may remember what happened, some decades ago now, when television chef Fanny Craddock was asked to judge ‘ordinary people’ on a precursor to modern programmes like “Masterchef”. Craddock – never one to quite understand the way ‘real people’ lived – laid into housewife Gwen Troake for her menu with such force and condescension that while Troake was speaking, she pretended to retch and vomit. Craddock’s career was finished, her contract terminated early, never to be seen again.
For all his will and strength, Brown appears to have a similar problem with interacting with ‘ordinary people’. His unease and awkwardness, his social anxiety, has shown itself in ways throughout his Prime Ministerial career – from not understanding why low income earners would be upset at the loss of the 10p tax rate, to this recent outburst.
A Craddock-like axing from public life is not likely to happen…but something very similar must be on its way after polling day.