Gordon Brown has been caught out by comments that were picked up by a microphone he didn’t know was still switched on.
Ronald Reagan once was made to look silly in a similar fashion, joking that “bombing starts in 5 minutes” against the Soviet Union.
This is worse. Mr Reagan’s comments were a joke, if an indiscreet one, and everyone knew it.
Brown’s comments were not a joke. They reveal not only his private contempt for the electorate but also the character of the Labour campaign, with its focus on keeping Mr Brown away from anyone who might criticise him.
Mr Brown had just had a lively exchange with a Mrs Duffy, who described herself as a lifelong Labour voter.
Here’s what he said after their exchange, as he got into the car with the microphone still turned on:
That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous…
And what had she said?
Ugh everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous. I don’t know why Sue brought her up towards me.
Said Mrs Duffy:
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.
Well, she certainly understands the crisis we’re facing after Gordon Brown’s financial mismanagement.
Mr Brown later said:
Of course I apologise if I’ve said anything that’s been offensive and I would never put myself in a position where I would want to say anything like that about a woman I’d met.
First, Mr Brown, that isn’t the point. People aren’t upset because you said something offensive. People are upset because of what it reveals about your real attitudes.
And second, you did indeed put yourself in a position where you said that about a woman you’d met, didn’t you?
Do Labour really, really expect us to think of Mr Brown as being fit to be Prime Minister?