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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A disastrous gaffe

A game-changing moment? There have been plenty of microphone gaffes by politicians over the years, but Gordon Brown's gaffe today is extremely significant in this election campaign. Why?

Brown's gaffe reveals many of the weaknesses that many suspect about him and were confirmed in the back of that car today. Fatally, Brown was revealed as completely duplicitous. One of the untold stories of this campaign is how unconvincing Brown is in his interactions with voters. Just as he cannot seem to master the presentational aspects needed to win the debates, so he cannot master the charm and human interaction with voters on the streets. His decision to allow Sky News to fix a microphone on him was already fairly painful with his forced "Hello, nice to see you's" as he's gone from one Asda supermarket to another. And today, he was busted saying one thing to a voter and then denouncing the encounter as a "disaster" and the placid voter as "bigoted" as soon as he got out of sight of the voters. Tragically, he'd actually won her over. But thin-skinned Brown didn't see it that way.

It was blatantly duplicitous. We've seen the fixed Brown smile before when explaining away the Election That Never Was or denying any involvement in the Damian McBride email scandals. We've seen Brown running away from the Lockerbie decsion, denying copying Tory policy on inheritance tax, the 10p tax row and pretending to like Tony Blair. Brown is now a politican defined by his inability to be straight with the voters, a line that - to their credit - the Tories shaped from day one of Brown's premiership. He batted off some fairly disastrous allegations of bullying in Andrew Rawnsley's recent valedictory on the Labour Party - noone quite believed him.

Today's gaffe made flesh Brown's weaknesses. Duplicitous. Not straight with the voters. A man who has never stood for serious election. Prone to temper tantrums. Unable to take responsibility - look how he blamed one of his advisors. Unable to face up to his mistakes and even a liar: even after his painful forty minute visit to Mrs Duffy, he claimed he'd "misunderstood the question". That is a lie - he understood it perfectly well. In his comic appearance on Radio 4, he decided to portray Mrs Duffy as an immigration-obsessed lunatic, though she had asked a broad range of questions on the deficit, education and crime - he now looks fatally out of touch with working class voters on immigration. And, cringe-time, out came the YouTube fake smile on Mrs Duffy's doorstep after his already cringe-worthy apology dash.

The most damaging aspect laid bare is Brown's total lack of credibility. When he next goes out on the streets meeting voters, who will take him seriously? Today's incident laid bare the Labour party's fatal decision to allow Brown a clear run at the leadership in 2007. With a different leader, one with the Prime Ministerial credentials of warmth, empathy, powers of persuasion, charisma and credibility, the Labour party would be doing far better in the polls. Brown was a sorry, laughable sight today - a man who scarcely believes himself that he is fit to be PM. The decision to knock on Mrs Duffy's door and apologise only served to make Brown look more unfit for office.

Tetchy, tired and lacking in credibility - it's time for Brown to go. And as each Labour Minister is wheeled out to defend the indefensible - they look more and more out of this campaign. Mrs Duffy will be a key part of the history of Gordon Brown's premiership - as the moment we really knew it was all over.

Third place for Labour looks a lot more likely tonight than it ever has before in this campaign.

PREDICTION: Hung Parliament, Conservatives short by 5

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