Just to recap on the facts:
1) Gordon Brown on a visit to Rochdale, has a perfectly civil ding-dong with a Gracie Fields type who tongue-lashes him over a range of issues including immigration
2) After five minutes of grinning and bearing her harangues, Gordon bids a fond farewell to Gracie and makes a dash for his car. Once safely inside he succumbs (presumably like every other politician) to a bout of moaning about the encounter, calling her a bigot and lashing out in true Gordon style in search of someone else to blame for the inconvenience of meeting an unfriendly voter. Poor PM having to meet a voter during an election – what has the world come to.
3) Unfortunately Mr Brown’s TV microphone was still on, so his little moan was recorded and played out umpteen times over the air.
Now this was a problem.
The public already think they cannot trust politicians and now here was one being two-faced about Gracie Fields. One could imagine Nick Clegg and David Cameron rushing to be the first to pummel Mr Brown with it in tomorrow’s debates. “We have got to get away from the old politics where you say one thing to a voter’s face and then call her an old bigot when you get into the car”.
Clearly delighted at finding a a “real moment” in this bloodless election, the broadcasters revelled in his misery declaring it the first major gaffe of the campaign (assuming one doesn’t count David Cameron’s decision to let Nick Clegg into the TV debates) and it became the “story of the day”. Mr Brown apologised on the radio for saying what he meant about Gracie. Well just about – he said he apologised if he had said it. A perfect cue for Jeremy Vine helpfully to play back the tape in front of him while cameras filmed Mr Brown in the studio listening, head in hands. It was just awful.
Lord Mandelson went on TV to insist that in fact Mr Brown hadn’t meant what he’d said. And then inexplicably Labour just went on and on about it. Mr Brown tore up his schedule to go back to Rochdale and spend half an hour grovelling to Gracie in her front room. He emerged – without her – to declare himself a penitent sinner.
The whole day has been dominated with the nonsense story of Gordon and Gracie – which since the parties are not talking about serious policy – is probably absolutely fine.
Another shocking day for Mr Brown, another day in which Messrs Cameron and Clegg (and indeed the PM) avoid serious exposure over the gaps in their economic policy. Just seven days left to find out what they might have in store for the country.
PS: Our political editor George Parker has an interview with the prime minister that we will run later tonight. One can only imagine what Mr Brown said about him after he had gone.