BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 20:22 UK

Gordon Brown on bigot 'misunderstanding'


Brown: 'I thought Mrs Duffy wanted to expel foreign students'

Gordon Brown has said he thought a pensioner he called a "bigot" had been talking about "expelling" all foreign university students.

The Labour leader apologised to Gillian Duffy on Wednesday after his off-camera comments were picked up by a live mic.

Mrs Duffy had asked him about immigration and also mentioned student tuition fees, among other subjects.

The BBC's Jeremy Paxman asked Mr Brown to explain what he meant when he said he had misunderstood her comments.

He said: "I thought she was talking about expelling all university students from here who were foreigners. I misunderstood it."


He said he had apologised to Mrs Duffy, who had met him on the campaign trail in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

"Look, people say things in the heat of the moment, when you get angry, and you've got to apologise for it."

Mrs Duffy quizzed Mr Brown about pensions, immigration and student fees among other subjects

The film of Mr Brown insulting Mrs Duffy to aides as he drove away from a campaign event made news around the world and threatened to sink Labour's general election campaign ahead of Thursday's final prime ministerial debate.

Mr Brown said he was "mortified" when he heard and saw the clip and made an immediate personal apology to Mrs Duffy, stressing that he did understand voters' concerns about immigration.

He also emailed Labour activists and supporters to express his remorse and apologise for the impact his comment could have on the campaign.

The 66-year-old grandmother, a lifelong Labour voter, had asked him about how he was going to get the country out of debt.

She then turned briefly to immigration, saying: "You can't say anything about the immigrants because you're saying that you're... all these Eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?"

She then goes on to mention university tuition fees and her grandchildren, and Mr Brown explains Labour's policy on higher education funding and grants.

Mr Brown was also pressed by Jeremy Paxman, in the third and final of his half-hour interviews with the three main party leaders, on banking regulation and his pledge to end "boom and bust".


He denied his promotion of "light touch" regulation of the banks had led to the financial crisis.

We were going to have this crisis of globalisation at some point
Gordon Brown

"Please believe me, I have never been soft on bankers and I am not soft on bankers now and I have been very, very clear about what the banks have got to do in the future."

He says the financial crisis was a worldwide phenomenon and "we were going to have this crisis of globalisation at some point".

Asked why he had not done something to prevent it, he said he had tried and "failed" to persuade the US, Europe and the rest of the world to sign up to a global financial "early warning system".

Challenged to give a yes or no answer to whether VAT would go up in the wake of a Labour victory, Mr Brown said: "It's a no, because it is not in our deficit reduction plan."

He was also challenged about Labour's handling of immigration over the past 13 years and the fact that it had predicted just 13,000 new arrivals from Eastern Europe after EU enlargement, when it has been more than half a million according to official estimates.

"I don't make the forecast," said Mr Brown, adding that immigration from Eastern Europe "has risen but not astronomically".

He said: "We are a member of the EU. It is inevitable that people will come in from the EU."

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