Gordon Brown’s gaffe ‘detoxifies’ Tory immigration policies…

Interesting times. Danny Finkelstein said on Newsnight last night that Brown’s clumsiness comes already discounted with the price, and therefore this won’t have much of an effect. I beg to differ Danny. It will have an effect almost precisely because in comparison with the larger affairs of state, it is relatively trivial.

It will matter, because it shifts more of those crucial folk with light preferences in politics (ie, the ones who still ‘don’t know’ when they lift the pencil to vote) away from Gordon, and across to…. Well, to whom exactly?

Charlie accurately describes the control freakery thing that probably already has been discounted.  Yet, for me the interesting thing is less that, than its demonstration of just how removed British politicians have become from ordinary people.

Three years ago Shuggy threw an interesting light on where Brown’s real weakness lies: his peculiarly Scottish Labour procession from relative obscurity to PM, written around the time he famously ‘bottled’ an election in October 2007:

…what so few people have remarked upon is part of his nervousness would have been based on his inexperience with close elections. Where has he been confronted with this before personally? In Fife? Don’t make me laugh. In a leadership contest? They had a coronation instead. It was no wonder Brown looked so pleased – it brought to the rest of the country the Scottish Labour way where the selectorate are the electorate in most places, most of the time.

Here’s a video of the incident, and the follow up in which the woman herself comes over as rather more intelligent than some of the questions being pitched her…

This sets the Tories up nicely for tonight’s debate two ways. Mr Brown’s intemperate outburst has made immigration –  one of the key hot issues  of the Conservatives campaign in key marginals – respectable (see this Daly/Finkelstein dialogue for context). And it solves Mr Cameron’s dilemma of what to do about Mr Clegg on tonight’s TV. He can focus all his attention on the hapless Prime Minister and leave the Lib Dem leader to pick up whatever he can.

Game and penultimate set to Mr Cameron…

, , , ,

  • VI Lurgan


    I consider this justifies Labour backbench concerns regarding Brown’s appeal to voters. He may have been considered competent when Chancellor but cannot be the public face of a major election campaign. This gaffe will, as you rightly put it, put the ‘don’t knows’ off voting Labour.

    However I believe his goose was cooked well before this gaffe and will only serve as an excuse for Labour when they get a tanking on 06 May.

    I disagree however that it will solve Cameron’s dilemma regarding the debate as Clegg poses a bigger problem for Cameron. Any lack of focus on Lib Dems will give Clegg a free run and thats exactly what they did in the first debate. Any repeat performance by Clegg will seriously dent Cameron’s aspirations for majority Government and I believe his tactic might be to try and sideline Brown early as he is now out of the race and target Clegg. Risky tactic though

  • Framer

    The question is has Gordon Brown become metropolitan on the immigration issue, thinking anyone who even mentions it is a bigot?

    And note the word used was bigot not racist, bigot being a word of religious connotation from here and Scotland.

    I think he has gone metropolitan or global (his othe rfavourite word) although he retains primarily a sort of Presbyterian disdain for the non-enlightened.

    Perhaps it is because his wife is so p.c. or he was trying to impress the metrosexual staffer in the car with him.

  • Neil

    He really is poor when it comes to meet and greets. Was watching him last week at a pensioners garden party in england somewhere and he was going round while some other bloke introduced him to people, and as an example ‘this is Ethel, she works for Oxfam’. Gordo would then walk over and say ‘Thanks for working in Oxfam’ grinning like a ten year old on his birthday. Then it would be the next persons turn, he’d get promted, walk over and say ‘thanks for [insert comment from prompter]’.

    It was pathetic, like a stoner meeting his girlfriend’s parents. Sweating, smiling and trying to be pleasant and chatty. I want him to win, but I fear it’s too late now. He should have stuck to doing conferences on serious stuff like the economy. I reckon we’re heading back to a decisive Tory win. Grim.

  • dmcoop

    One interesting point is the disconnect between what the public think of as immigration and what the politicians mean when they talk about immigration.
    When members of the public speak they talk about immigrants from Eastern Europe and see that as a problem.
    The politicians know that they can’t do anything about people moving within Europe and any controls they want to put in place only relates to those coming from outside the EU.
    No mainstream party can address the concern (justified or not) about migration from within the EU and they all seem to skirt around the issue.

  • slug

    Voting for the SDLP here will help labour as they sit on the Labour benches, if you want a Labour government then vote SDLP.

  • slug

    I suppose one could leave the EU. If you want that policy then locally TUV would be your best bet.

  • slug

    If you are a Cleggite then locally the Alliance party are the nearest option. However, they do not have a whipping relationship.

  • Mr Ned

    I agree. Now that Brown has “unbigotified’ the immigration issue, Cameron will have to hammer Clegg on the LibDem amnesty policy and show how amnesties in other countries have made immigration much worse there.

    This could be a big opportunity for Cameron, but if he plays it badly, it could play even better for Clegg. Cameron must not let that happen.

    On the Economy, Cameron MUST remind people of Black Wednesday, and then show them how Brown’s selling off, of OUR gold has cost this country the equivalent of TWO Black Wednesdays. Then he should put that into perspective by demonstrating how the appalling labour created deficit is so huge that it is creating a bill, direct to the taxpayer, of the order of a Black Wednesday EVERY WEEK!

    Cameron COULD seal this election tonight, EASILY.

    Will he?

  • Ellie

    He was never competent as a Chancellor or we wouldn’t be in this mess would we?
    And the Labour party only has itself to blame if it faces carnage in the polls.
    Perhaps in future they will appoint their leaders in a democratic manner and not this corrupt Scottish Labour way.
    That’s if they have a future after next week.

  • Mark


    Absolutely untrue that there is nothing we can do about EU immigrants.

    First it was Labour’s choice to immediately throw open the doors to some (not all) East Europe countries – Germany did not and still has a 10 yeat transition.

    Having learnt from this mistake note the UK now puts strict limits are on Romania for example. Personally i rather doubt the “10 year transition” will ever come to an end with them.

    Nor do we need to pay the family tax credits to East Europe families still resident in their home countries which incentivises East Europe immigrants. We could simply change the way the tax credit system works to get around this if we were serious about addressing the problem.

  • dmcoop

    I’m not saying that I want the policy, just pointing out the disconnect. The conservatives saying that they will be tough on immigration means nothing to voters who are concerned about migrants from Europe.
    From what I can see most people who complain about immigration talk about Eastern Europeans ‘taking our jobs’ or ‘British jobs for British workers’, but no main party is going to change this, it’s just the way it is if we want to be in the EU.

  • SammyMehaffey

    Dont forget it was Labour who allowed unrestricted entry from eastern europe. And they thought there would be 30K instead there were 300K. Another idiotic labour error. How can anyone be undecided after 13 years of that rubbis.

  • VI Lurgan

    There is no doubt that any discussion on immigration will play to the scaremongering, some set out above, regarding the ‘cost’ of foreign nationals. Will discussions centre on the collapse of NHS if immigration does not continue? Will discussions raise the contribution in services sector because nationals won’t work for mages on offer? I doubt it.

    The current system has been subject to abuse but no less than the levels of Social Security fraud, both current and historical, by settled communities.

    On tonight’s debate, it will be interesting to see if any party leader honestly sets out what the cuts in public service will be and how this will address the budget deficit? I doubt if honesty will be on show tonight.

  • RepublicanStones

    Has Cameron even floated a figure yet for this mystical cap he keeps harping on about?

    As regards going for Browns throat and leaving Clegg to pick up the scraps I don’t think that would be such a wise move as Lurgan stated above. Cameron needs to take some of the sheen off Clegg and simply getting into a cockfight with Brown will not serve that necessity. IIRC in tonights debate it will be Brown in the middle, which won’t help Cameron if his tactic is to sideline Clegg, as ignoring a guy your are facing (as Cameron will be if he turns to Brown) is much harder than if he had his back to him. It will make for interesting viewing, which is all the more galling as I’ll only have the web radio and won’t be able to watch. Camron will no doubt have prepared some material to put a bit of yellow on Clegg’s pearly whites, he’d be insane to bin any material he’s been working on toward that end purely to milk the gaffe of the incumbent.

  • Driftwood

    I cant seem to get any odds at the bookmakers on how many times ‘Greece’ will be mentioned by DC tonight.

    Public spending cuts will be the elephant in the room that all will wish to tiptoe round.

    On the subject of immigration, is it possible both the UK and Ireland will see an influx from that sunny place?

  • When I read the intro to this thread I thought it was about journalistic judgement, not the predictable rehash of Brownophobia (about which we learn nothing new here so far).


    Can Mick enlighten us on whether he thinks the Telefgraph headline deserved the same size of type that the paper reserves for events such as 9/11?

  • Philip

    Cameron should aim to ignore Clegg as much as possible – and attack, attack, attack GB, get him worked up and angry as in the HoC, and expose him further — he must raise immigration and as the next PM assure the country they are the only party to deal with this problem head on – Labour has done nothing for the last 13 years which is why we now have a problem, and Cleggy would just continue to allow more in with their lunatic policy of “allocating” immigrants to regions in the country where of course they will all stay and be good boys and girls. – these are his 2 principle weapons and if he attacks and attacks the whole one hour, that will be what the British people have been waiting for …lets hope for the best

  • Mick Fealty


    The short answer is no, obviously. But I think they rightly sense their team’s big opportunity has landed unbidden into its lap. Philip below puts Cameron’s opportunity very well.

    He won’t need to attack attack though. Talking calmly and intelligently about immigration in the wake of yesterday is now low hanging fruit for the Tories; and a no win for Gordon, who will have a real problem sorting a defence out on time. I expect Mandy will be hatching some kind of plan.

    The penultimate set is not yet the match of course. But Woolas and Straw will not be sleeping much between now and next Thursday.

  • Is there not something the merest trifle ironic in a lady, so concerned at immigration, who has a surname derived from Ó Dubhthaigh?

  • Mick Fealty

    She’s not alone in Rochdale. Newsnight also interviewed a Mr O’Shea and Mrs O’Sullivan.

  • except

    except voting SDLP in FST which could lead to a tory whipped mp on many issues

  • slug

    Not unless you believe in the pure indigenous peoples arguments of the BNP.

  • Harry

    VI Lurgan raises a salient point.

    Why were the doors flung open? The welfare state has created a lump of people who should be working for whom it is far more comfortable and secure to not work than work. It is also creating a poorly skillled workforce, unable to read and write but at least they know to recycle.

    That is one of the issues Mrs Duffy raised – seeing able bodied British people on benefits and lots of immigrants working.

    The Government was convinced there would be a skills shortage. It chose to tackle it by maintaining millions of people on benefits and importing workers rather than sort out the welfare system. It helped cause the house price bubble wiith housing benefits. It priced British people out of the bottom end of the labour market.

  • Colonel Sanders

    13 years of crap policies from pseudo-Labour.
    They haven’t stood for working man since Tony took over. Dave needs to highlight Gordon’s specific economic crimes tonight if, in the words of the Tories’ biggest fan, he wants to “Blow the bloody doors off!”


    Having listened to what the woman said, I have concluded that it was bigoted.
    Immigration has hardly been off the front page of some national newspapers for the last few years, it has been a topic of discussion in both debates so far , and yet she persists with this nonsense that you can,t talk about Immigration. As for her language, it is no different to saying all these Pakis than saying all these Eastern Europeans, it is shorthand for filthy foreigner.

  • slug

    Voting SF helps the Tories as the SF don’t turn up

  • RepublicanStones

    As she is a widow Duffy is perhaps her late husbands name. In any event to raise such an issue against that surname, in England, would be akin to labelling anyone with a ‘Fitz…’ surname here in Ireland as a french f@+k !

  • Plink

    Cameron said on last weeks debate the cap would not be fixed, and would have to depend on availability of services and employment on a year by year basis. Seems more reasonable than a rigid figure to me.

  • Mr E Mann

    Brown needs a defender here, so I guess I am drafted. Let’s put this in a different light. Uncharismatic as he is, the head of government of the UK made an unannounced stop in a huimble constituency and had an unscripted conversation with an ordinary citizen. US Presidents, for example, do that exactly as often as Roman Emperors did. Would, say, Sarkozy or Berlusconi have the nuts for it?

    Cameron wouldn’t go to that neighborhood, let alone let a working-class widow ask him questions.

  • Greenflag

    I read somewhere this morning that the BNP now ‘welcomes’ Irish immigrants to the UK .
    There are probably more Duffy’s in the UK than in Ireland .

    Anyway the woman raised some valid points re large scale immigration which NONE of the political parties seem to want to address . Partly this is due to the EU but also due to the failure of successive Governments in the UK going back some 60 years to create policies that would encourage the English people to at least breed enough to replace their numbers . Between that and killing off almost a million in WW1 and hundreds of thousands in WW2 the English ?British population has had to rely on immigration to keep up the numbers needed for continued economic growth .

    A huge issue and one which presents no easy answers which is why USA political parties are also trying to avoid the issue in the run up to the November elections .


    For those who insist we’re not allowed to talk about immigration, type immigration election into google. I get 7500 hits. is that the sound of silence?

  • Greenflag

    Tonight’s debate on the economy should be decisive .Watch for Cameron trying to focus on Mrs Duffy instead of on the critical issue in order to score points .
    Brown is a bit of a dunderhead in dealing with people but he’s still Britain’s safest bet as PM for the next couple of years anyway .

    Had it not been for the worldwide economic crisis and fixing what remains of it I would’nt be too upset at Cameron getting a go at the top job and he probably would have been elected with a clear majority simply because it appeared time for a change .

    But the Wall St meltdown and the international consequences of same have imo skewered Mr Cameron’s chances .

    Ironically or perhaps justifiably the economic meltdown caused by ultra conservatives and their failed economic policies across the pond will impact negatively on Conservative chances in the UK . How much have Goldman Sachs donated to the Tory Party this time around I wonder ?

  • RepublicanStones

    So his cap turns out to be more Clegg than cap.

  • Mr E Mann

    That’s a little different- obviously the reason there are a lot of Irish people in England is that they conquered us and all. Same reason crumpet-eating hordes of English immigrants will be assaulting Germany and France soon :).

  • Greenflag


    ‘The welfare state has created a lump of people who should be working for whom it is far more comfortable and secure to not work than work. ‘

    And is this because the private sector cannot deliver jobs at wages that people will work for or is it because of the ‘oversupply’ of immigrants which is used to dampen down wage /labour rate increases ? Or is it simply that as a result of an increased standard of living the working and lower and middle classes of the developed world have made a collective decision not to ‘breed’ in order to maintain their living standard ?

    The use of what’s called ‘cheap labour ‘ was always advantageous to those with the capital and political power to exploit it throughout history . When the local indigenous people /peoples refuse to work for low wages then the market adjusts by importing cheaper more docile less unionised labour .etc

    Of course there are work shy social welfare cheats even among some of the immigrants as well as among indigenous peoples in all the states of the EU and elsewhere .

    Call me old fashioned but what do you call an undocumented latin american immigrant who works three different jobs for five dollars an hour for 80 or more hours a week without benefits or health insurance ?

    Lazy ? Enterprising ? a Survivor or a Slave .

    Our western democracies need slave labour for the elites to live the lives they are accustomed to. But they’ll never admit it .

    As my mother used to say -the rich have money and wealth and position while the poor have children and the system gradually lifts the bottom sections of the population towards the higher levels by means of war , plague , famine etc etc .

    But what if the poorer sort stop having children in sufficient numbers i.e future labour and it can no longer be imported because of political opposition ?

  • Nash

    Although many in the press etc describe Gordon Brown as a man of substance etc., what should not be discounted is that he is just second-rate!

    The incident of the 10% tax rate was illustrative of both non-numeracy and not being very smart – as was his reading out the 0% increase in spending at PMQs.

    Somebody who is numerate (and smart) would not make mistakes like that.

    As Chancellor he inherited a booming economy and his reputation was earned by following Tory spending plans for the first two years. THEN he acted like a little boy in a candy shop who could not stop spending. I would like to travel First Class and buy a mansion and send my kids to the best schools BUT I would then go bankrupt because my income is not high enough! Gordon Brown has done the equivalent to the country – lots of nice things that are just not affordable!

    Listening to him in Debate #3 it is obvious he cannot think on his feet. He had learned answers to questions and he then selected an answer that was closest to the question he had learned – however he did not actually any question.

    Gordon Brown is a sad example of a guy who is promoted above his abilities – who will be much happier as an ex-PM. It says little for Labour that they would willingly have such an inadequate guy as their leader.

    It is sad for the country that such an inadequate man is allowed to bankrupt a country by his poor judgment. We do need some more checks and balances in our “constitution” to stop this type of problem happening again.

  • Greenflag

    nash ,

    ‘As Chancellor he inherited a booming economy’

    Nonsense . For those of us who remember previous Tory Governments from almost 4 million unemployed under Thatcher to the destruction of British manufacturing and engineering to the looting of a billion pounds sterling from under the noses of the Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont by George Soros and the assorted pack of international financial speculators it will be ‘deja vu’ under another Tory regime .

    They have nothing to offer the British people except new suits . Brown has made some mistakes but he at least is aware of the world economic system outside the UK . The Tories think that Britain is somehow aloof from world economic problems .

    But by far the best gaffe that the Cameroonians have made is the promise to bring back the jobs to the UK that Thatcher got rid of with her ‘grocery shop’ services mentality.

    If you believe the Cameroonians you deserve all you’ll get;(

  • I’ve read that twice. All I got from it were opinionated and snide gybes, each of which I could dredge for myself from some Tory cheerleader site.

    Funnily enough, no party leader walks on water, and each needs to wipe his own backside. In other words: any politician is human.

    Only when the airbrush obscures such simple truths do we get binary cults of hagiography/demonology. By then we are well on the way to a cult of personality. The last dose of that inflicted itself on the Tory party in the recent past: it was no great success, and it left its mark on a deindustrialised Britain dependent on selling service industires and banking, in the poll tax, years of conflict in Northern Ireland until wiser minds were applied (one small cheer for Peter Brooke), privatised utilities now generally bought up by foreign nationalised combines, and in little Englanders.

    If Slugger is going to be taken over by trolls and sycophants, I — for one — am out of here.

    Else, any one for “issues”, “policies” and analysis?