Well, it was his words not mine…. Gordon Brown appears to have today been caught in what must surely be the political cock-up of his premiership. Forget the usual parliamentary skullduggery, no this comes down to a simple mistake, a microphone left on.
When Mr Brown awoke this morning I am willing to bet he had no idea that such a bad day lay before him, and frankly the day began well. When Gordon got to Rochdale, he engaged in a ‘friendly chat’ with some local voters, one of whom was 65 year old retiree Gillian Duffy, a lifelong Labour supporter. She grilled the PM, not unfairly it must be added, on issues such as taxes, pensions and immigration – issues that mattered to her. The debate seemed fair and balanced, with both sides putting forward valid arguments. That is until Gordon Brown departed the scene. Upon setting foot inside his Jaguar campaign car, he immediately labeled the exchange a “disaster”, before going on to launch an angry attack on both Gillian Duffy, labeling her a “bigot”; and his staff, for allowing her to speak to him.
What Gordon Brown evidently did not know is that the lapel microphone he was wearing (which incidently his own party had insisted upon) was still on, and broadcasting exactly what he was saying live and direct to Sky News. Matters weren’t exactly helped when about half an hour later he appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to talk about the incident, only to not know he was also being filmed. Whilst Brown may have been trying to sound optimistic, the visual showed a defeated, tired and broken figure, clearly frustrated by the day’s events.
As I write this, Mr Brown has just emerged from within Gillian Duffy’s house, possibly after being on his knees begging for forgiveness: after all, this is an election campaign.
I am at least slightly impressed that both he and the Labour party in general have managed to turn this incident around from occurrence to personal visit and apology in under four hours.
That said, he really should have known better. The other candidates, and their parties, will no doubt be watching this with great interest for the obvious political benefit it will give them, but also no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t make the same mistake themselves.
PR Lesson No. 1, Mr Brown – the mic is always on. Yes, you thought you were in private, and yes, you’re entitled to your opinion – but the mic was attached (which your probably by now ex-press secretary should have told you). And when it’s attached, it’s always on – especially if you want to call one of your voters a ‘bigot’.