Home > General Politics, Labour Party News, Local Democracy > Campaign moments and Brown’s bigotry

Campaign moments and Brown’s bigotry

I don’t know how to describe the transition between open fury and weary resignation that Gordon Brown calling a woman a bigot sent me through today. It did, however, provoke a lighter moment.

Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne came off with this gem:

“That’s the thing about general elections, they do reveal the truth about people.”

Which is exactly why CCHQ have kept you hidden under the bed, you utter pillock.

Once again, however, the Dear Leader of the Labour Party has made the job of Labour activists across the country that bit harder. Just as Labour were getting traction, with every indication that the Tories are nowhere near where they should be – bearing in mind how deeply unpopular this government is with the chattering classes – Brown puts his foot in it.

And how! Is there a better way to highlight the chasm that separates political leaders from real people than by calling someone bigoted for raising an objection to Eastern European immigration? It proves the remove between the political class and ordinary people, that having any objection to immigration is simple bigotry and not, perhaps, the result of squeezed services or the other real problems immigration causes.

Or simpler still, could it not be the result of bad information? Which it may well have been, judging by the woman’s decision (prior to the remarks about her bigotry being made public) to vote for Labour.

Reading over Twitter, there seems to have been a mix of reactions – some have defended the actions of Brown on the grounds that they too have come away from the door step and been thoroughly irritated with the people who they’ve talked to – as my blograde Paul Cotterill has, picked up by Miljenko over at 21st Century Fix.

I don’t sympathise however. I have problems keeping my temper under control at the best of times, and this blog has often been my soapbox for long and humourless rants against Brown, or Cruddas, or other bloggers. Yet I don’t think there’s any excuse for slagging off people whose doors you’ve just knocked on, or who have come to hear you speak.

At the risk of sounding thoroughly holier-than-thou, on the doorstep I’ve met BNP voters, voters angry with Labour to the point of shouting, I’ve met religious homophobes and I’ve had my fair number of doors slammed in my face – and I don’t recall ever waiting to get out of earshot before I let my real opinions be heard.

This woman comes near none of the above (video here), and seemed perfectly willing to discuss her problem.

The result is that Gordon Brown’s subsequent words depict him as upset that someone didn’t kowtow by serving up a soft-ball question, of the sort he’s used to fielding at Question Time from Labour MPs. Apart from making it harder to get the few decent Labour MPs re-elected, it also plays into the right-wing narrative that any discussion of immigration gets shouted down by the Left as racism, or bigotry.

Fuck Gordon Brown and the horse he rode in on. And if you want to talk about real bigotry, talk about Yarl’s Wood immigrant detention facility, happening under Labour’s watch.

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  1. April 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    You’re not a bigot for calling somebody else out on their bigotry. That’s exactly the kind of nonsense you expect to hear from BNP tolls.

  2. April 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Just as well that’s not what I said then, isn’t it?

  3. paulinlancs
    April 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    All activists have different personal ways of dealing with hostility and/or diametrically opposed worldviews on the doorstep (and I’m not suggesting Mrs Duff was being hostile, esp as I’ve not seen the footage).

    While out of principle I’ll always make a point of making clear that I disagree with someone who comes out with what I consider to be ‘bigoted’, I always do so politely and with conscious restraint. The odd little cathartic ‘That was bloody hard work’ mumble to myself is hardly something I’m ashamed of.

    Gordon Brown’s doorstep manner may indeed need a bit of work. He may be out of practice.

  4. April 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Broadly agree with this. Bloody right about Yarl’s Wood. And the death at Oakington the other day.

    I’ve posted something over at my blog. Now we can expect, for the rest of the day, media stories about how media stories will play out. It’s a meta-election.

  5. April 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Brown may be a disaster when it comes to PR but don’t fret, David Cameron is still working hard on behalf of your party.

  6. Mike
    April 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Brown coped well with the angry & interrupted tirade, the ambush in the radio studio, and the apology at her home. His throw-away comments stemmed from his frustration at not being able to match the polished PR of Cameron & Clegg. For which he can thank his God-awful media handlers of the last couple of years, together with his failure to attend a public school. Isn’t this just Old Labour?

    Personally, I think Brown comes out of it well. He made a mistake, which wasn’t malicious, and apologised for it. I’m not convinced Cameron & Clegg are capable of that.

  7. April 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    He coped well? The woman asked a civil question and Brown waited til he thought he was in private and then gave her abuse. What a hero.

    It’s bugger all to do with PR and much more to do with answering someone honestly and not giving the answer you think will play well on camera and then saying something completely different in private.

    • Mike
      April 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      Brown answered her question politely and honestly. And yeah, he did well. He received an angry and confused tirade, opening with “I’m ashamed to vote Labour”, and left her voting Labour. Brown wasn’t even abusive to the voter, in private. If she gave Brown the impression that she was a bigot, it’s not abuse to reference her as such. Nor does it contradict his public response.
      Though my impression was that Brown was voicing his frustrations, rather than an objective analysis. He referred to the interview as a disaster, yet the media present thought it was successful.
      And yeah, it’s about PR. The numerous TV crews make it all about PR.

  8. April 29, 2010 at 12:27 am

    The episode shows how far removed from the working class the Labour Party leadership has become.

    Duffy did not make bigoted comments, she asked reasonable questions about topics being discussed in every pub in the land.

    The right thing to do would have been to answer all her points with clear facts, and a commitment to make things better for all working class people. Gordon was not able to do this, hence his rage.

    He is more used to talking to businessmen and slick political lobbyists, people who make their fortunes parasitising off the public sector while making the politicians feel good about themselves.

    Outside this cosseted cocoon, working class people are used to asking straight questions and getting straight answers. Gillians crime in Gordon’s eyes was not that she mentioned immigration, but that she did not defer to him and his leadership as the man that ‘saved the world’, that she did not automatically give Labour her vote as if Labour were automatically entitled to it, for nothing in return.

    Gordon has alienated a wide section of the core labour vote, a section that was already very soft about voting for Labour, as Labour has ignored them for the last decade in favour of pro-rich policies. Immigration has become an issue, because Labour has been vicious in its treatment of asylum seekers and their families, because, as you point out, they’ve let slogans like ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ trip easily off their tongues, and because, in conditions of capitalist crisis, when everyone is feeling the pinch, we start niggling with our neighbours over scraps instead of looking at the bigger picture and seeing who is really responsible for shortages and cuts.

  9. Barney Stannard
    April 29, 2010 at 12:35 am

    So you were rude to their faces rather than in private? Gee, that does make you a better person. Far more likely to win votes as well.

    But on the plus side you do have another reason to justify Labour’s lack of traction. Every cloud eh?

  10. April 29, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Barney, you’d be surprised what talking to people honestly can do, but I find it surprising that you wouldn’t agree that telling someone something to their face – however they react to it – is better than snidely commenting about it behind their backs. The whole ‘winning votes’ thing is secondary; if you have to hide who you are, and what you stand for, to win, maybe you shouldn’t be running? And maybe that’s a problem with the electoral system?

  11. April 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Yesterday I was 50/50 about whether or not to go campaigning.

    Then Brown did this, and said “well fuck it what’s the point, I can’t be bothered getting shouted at tonight”. A silly email at 4pm did not change my mind.

  12. April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I’m spending all day Saturday campaigning. But it ain’t for Labour, even if I am voting for them.

  1. April 29, 2010 at 10:37 am
  2. April 29, 2010 at 10:49 am
  3. April 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm
  4. April 30, 2010 at 8:33 pm
  5. May 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

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