Update: 10:41 a.m. EDT: With a telephone apology apparently unsatisfactory, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is traveling back to Rochdale to apologize in person to Gillian Duffy, a supporter who he called a "bigoted person" after meeting her on the campaign trail, according to the BBC.
Below is the original post about the incident:
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, having been in politics for decades, should have been well aware of the dangers of a "hot mic".
At a campaign stumping stop in northern England Wednesday, Brown had an engaging exchange with a resident called Gillian Duffy, who asked him pointed questions about immigration -- clearly a topic of genuine concern to her.
He responded diplomatically and smiled a lot (see them together at left). When he left Duffy, she told reporters amassed at the scene she would vote for Brown's Labour Party in the elections next week.
Then Mr. Brown got into his car and told an aid the entire discussion had been a "disaster," and called Duffy a "bigoted woman." He didn't realize a wireless microphone was still turned on and a news channel was listening in, and recording. (Click here to watch the video)
It may well be game-over for the already-trailing-in-the-polls Labour party.
If there's a cardinal sin in politics, it's probably, "don't get busted talking trash about your constituents."
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Not only did Brown commit the sin, he did it in Labour's traditional heartland, the working-class north of England, and on a topic that millions of Britons are deeply worried about; European immigration.
It's historically Brown's arch-rivals in the Conservative Party who are cast as elitist and disconnected from the British populace. They will have no problem projecting that stereotype now onto Brown in the scant days before millions of ballots are cast.
In a radio interview just minutes after his faux-pas, Brown apologized "profusely" for his blunder, saying he meant no harm. But his face during the interview, buried in his hands, revealed great concern as he took "full responsibility for what's done."
Labour had hoped to rob the town Duffy is from, Rochdale, from the Liberal Democrat Party, which currently holds the Parliamentary seat.
"An ordinary woman who just came up and asked him questions what lots of people would ask him... and he called me a bigot," Duffy recounted with indignity after the incident. She no told reporters she no longer intends to vote for the Labour Party. She said she won't vote at all.
Labour needs every vote it can get in this incredibly close election.
The BBC says Brown personally called Duffy less than an hour later to apologize again. But he can't call everyone in England who shares her views on immigration. The damage is done.