What will damage Gordon Brown over today’s unfortunate encounter is that Mrs Duffy – it transpires – seems to be far from the ignorant “bigot” that Brown labelled her.
Bewildered by her encounter with the prime minister, she said that all she wanted to know was “why I was called a bigot.” Mrs Duffy, in her own dignified way, said that Mr Brown was an “educated person” who should have known better.
According to her version of their conversation, the widow had merely wanted to know how the prime minister would deal with the deficit and been rebuffed: “The national debt, it will be tax, tax, tax for many years to get out of this deficit and he’s calling me a bigot,” she exclaimed.
The final twist of the knife: “I liked that Tony Blair.”
Brown’s reply: Mrs Duffy had said there were too many people from Eastern Europe in the UK.
“It was a question about immigration that was annoying,” he is telling BBC Radio (12.45). “I know these things can happen, I apologise profusely to the lady concerned, I don’t think that (she’s a bigot).”
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail, who was there, is describing her as “a magnificent Lancastrian grandmother“.
Given that the Duffy encounter seemed to go quite well; it does raise an interesting question over how Mr Brown reacts after meetings that go badly. There is also a clear lack of regret in his subsequent excuse – he seems to blame the broadcasters for playing his ‘private conversations’ rather than express genuine remorse.