Brown's 'Bigot' Blunder Blasted

PM Gordon Brown is being haunted by the subject of immigration as an angry voter asks "what is he going to do about it?".

Despite efforts to reduce the damage done yesterday, when he called a pensioner "bigoted", a worker at the factory he was visiting today has brought the subject up again.

Mr Brown was asked by the employee about what Labour "plan to do about immigration" which is "way too high in this country".

The PM retorted by explaining that the Government had brought in a tougher 'Australian-style' points system to stem the flow of unskilled migrants into the country.

Mr Brown insisted that "yesterday was yesterday" before adding: "I think I've apologised and I've said it was the wrong word to use."

Mr Brown is said to be "mortified" after being caught out calling a voter "bigoted".

In the final flourishes of his campaign trail this could be a damaging blow for Brown and comes just ahead of tonight's final televised debate.

The three leading parties will discuss the UK's economic affairs but today's headlines suggest that, for Mr Brown, the rest of his election campaign may be overshadowed by his blunder.

The Labour leader was publicly embarrassed when he was found calling a 65-year-old Rochdale woman "a bigoted woman" not realising his microphone was still switched on.

Gillian Duffy had challenged him on issues including immigration.

As he got into his car, he was still wearing a broadcast microphone and was heard to say "that was a disaster".

Mrs Duffy was a lifelong voter and what is more a lifelong Labour voter.

Mr Brown disregarded his schedule yesterday and, in what was seen as a farcical scene, travelled to the pensioner's house to try and mitigate the damage.

Senior Labour figures acknowledged the incident was a setback for Labour, eight days before the 6 May election, but stressed Mr Brown did not mean what he said and wished he had not said it.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the BBC immigration was not "off limits", Mrs Duffy represented a "large swathe" of voters and had been an "innocent victim".

But he said most people said things in private they later regretted and it was to Mr Brown's credit that he went to apologise face to face to Mrs Duffy.

"Gordon's not slick, he's not one of these people who gets up in the morning in a kind of sophisticated approach to politics," he said.

"He's a very human person, we all know that. This was a dreadful mistake, there's no getting around that but we will get on tonight to talking about the economy and the important issues."

The UK's three main parties will spend most of today preparing for the debate which is being aired at 8.30 tonight.

Conservative leader David Cameron is to visit a hospital and discuss his party's plans to create a £200m cancer drugs fund, while Nick Clegg is to focus on Liberal Democrat plans to help older people.

Anticipating the debate, Mr Brown told activists: "You have seen me in one context on the TV [yesterday].

"I hope [tonight] you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face."


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