Two names, two ladies, two very different ways-of-life, one political belief; and one very different outcome.
Sue Nye, who began her career as a typist for James Callaghan, the late former prime minister. Sue Nye has been Gordon Brown’s diary secretary, his firm friend and a long-serving target for much of his reputed but well-disguised ill-temper! For several years she has been Mr Brown’s gatekeeper while Chancellor, and continued to be the same at No 10. It is the right-hand woman role once performed by Anji Hunter for Tony Blair, in charge of everything from the diary to judging whether his hair needs a comb or a wash. It is perhaps significant that the road to Rochdale began at a hairdresser’s salon, followed by what seemed to most to be a perfectly ordinary conversation between a life-long Labour supporter, and ended in what could turn out to be the most significant sixty seconds in the history of this Nation!
Gillian Duffy is ordinary, but what a dynamite version of that once prosaic term. A native daughter of Rochdale, a widow, an ex-employee of the local Council, who used to look after disabled kids. She was going to the shops to buy a loaf of bread, saw all the police and asked, “Is Gordon Brown there?” When told that the Prime Minister was indeed viewing an offenders’ rehabilitation scheme, she decided to go and see if she could have words with this rarely seen ‘Great Man’. Standing on the outskirts of the crowd, she began to state what her opinions were, and a couple of t.v. reporters began filming her, because apparently a lot of what she said made sense.
Sue Nye spotted the doughty Gillian, and brought her forwards to speak with Gordon, because that was the new ‘theme’ of Labour, to get contact with ordinary voters! What followed was, and this is perhaps the most perplexing thing about the passage of words between the Labour Prime Minister and this truly remarkable ‘ordinary’ woman, a sane and remarkably staid conversation. They touched upon the fact that she is taxed upon her husband’s pension as it is bundled together with her own; she worked with children, and Brown muttered a platitude about his policies; they talked about crime, and how people are being let off, and Brown muttered some more platitudes. Then came the ‘magic moment, when Mrs. Gillian Duffy probably changed history. She asked, “How are you going to get us out of debt, Gordon?” He replied in political-speak ( which is a language only spoken by those in Westminster and the BBC) “We have a deficit reduction plan to cut debt by half over the four years.” Gillian then stated “You can’t say anything about immigrants. All these Eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?” The conversation went on for perhaps another two minutes before Gordon left after patronising his companion before getting into his Jaguar limousine.
His ‘open-microphone’ comments about a lady who had been, after all, a life-long Labour supporter, are reproduced in detail here, but the significance of those few angry words, trying to make out that Gillian was some spawn of Satan, a ‘bigot’, are best pictured and reported without any words, but by a simple photo of a widow finally realising that her Prime Minister not only doesn’t like her, he thinks she is a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour, says volumes with those eyes pictured showing the hurt!
This small extract from an online poll gives some idea of the impact of calling someone a ‘bigot’, especially when that someone does not deserve it.