Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on Wednesday for being caught on tape describing a voter as “bigoted” after she confronted him on the economy during a walkabout in northern England.
The words, caught on microphone after the encounter in Rochdale, are likely to cause embarrassment for Brown ahead of the May 6 vote, especially following a decision to get him campaigning more on the streets than in staged events attended by party supporters.
“That was a disaster,” Brown was heard saying as he got in a car still wearing a broadcast microphone. “Whose idea was that? It’s ridiculous.”
When asked what the voter had said, Brown said: “Everything, she’s just sort of a bigoted woman.”
The comments are a rare gaffe in what has been a tightly scripted and choreographed election campaign for all the main political parties.
“I apologise if I’ve said anything that has been hurtful and I will apologise to her personally,” Brown said.
“I was dealing with a question that she raised about immigration and I wasn’t given a chance to answer it.”
The pensioner, Gillian Duffy, who said she had voted Labour, had asked Brown how he would tackle the country’s record deficit as well as other issues ranging from immigration, pensions, university tuition fees and anti-social behaviour.
The pair seemed to have parted amicably before Brown got into a nearby car.
“I am very disappointed,” she told reporters after hearing about Brown’s comments.
“I’m very upset. He is an educated person – why he is using words like that? He is going to lead this country and he’s calling an ordinary woman who has just come up and asked him questions that most people would ask him … a bigot.”
(Reporting by Avril Ormsby and Kylie Maclellan)