We all sometimes have a cross word to say about people when we’re at work, but very few of us are forced to eat our words because they were recorded on microphone and broadcast to the entire nation. Ex-UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to eat a rather large slice of humble pie after being caught on microphone describing a voter he had just spoken to in Rochdale as a “bigoted woman.”
65 year-old Gillian Duffy had challenged Mr Brown on various issues including immigration and crime, but as he got into his car after the conversation he was still wearing a broadcast microphone and was heard to say the words, “that was a disaster,” out loud.
Off camera and not realising he still had a Sky News microphone pinned to his shirt, Mr. Brown was also heard telling an aide: “That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous…”
Mrs Duffy later said after hearing of Mr Brown’s comments: “He’s supposed to be leading the country and he’s calling an ordinary woman who’s come up and asked questions that most people would ask him… It’s going to be tax, tax, tax for another 20 years to get out of this national debt, and he’s calling me a bigot.”
Mrs Duffy had earlier told reporters she was a lifelong Labour voter and described Mr Brown as being “very nice”.
Political commentators at the time said it was a disaster for the then Prime Minister because it showed the gap between what people saw of him in public and his private face.
Mr. Brown later telephoned Mrs Duffy to personally apologise for the comments after a tape of the recording was played to him during a rather awkward BBC Radio 2 interview.
A spokesman for the prime minister said: “Mr Brown has apologised to Mrs Duffy personally by phone. He does not think that she is bigoted. He was letting off steam in the car after a difficult conversation. But this is exactly the sort of conversation that is important in an election campaign and which he will continue to have with voters.”
So there you have it – even Prime ministers occasionally have to atone for slagging people off in private whilst they’re at work.
Have a look at the clip below and try to think back to the last time you had a good rant about someone that upset you in the office. No doubt you’ll be relieved that you weren’t wearing a TV microphone that was still switched on so the entire nation could listen in on your ramblings.