He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last…

I was shocked to see that the lowest part of the campaign trail for Gordon Brown came as a result of the most amateurish mistakes of them all.

Whether or not you agree with Brown’s description of Gillian Duffy there’s no excusing such a schoolboy error – forgetting your mic is switched on.

We’ve all heard the story. A angry lifelong Labour supporter took the opportunity to challenge Gordon Brown on a number of issues – including immigration and crime – whilst he was on the campaign trail. The confrontation was recorded, and as he got into his car, still wearing a broadcast microphone, was heard to say “that was a disaster” before going on to call the woman a “bigot”.

The recording was later played to him during a BBC Radio 2 interview, broadcast live to the nation.

The BBC political editor Nick Robinson said it was a disaster for the prime minister because it showed the gap between his public face and private face. “For those of us who have known Gordon Brown for many years, what we have seen is no huge surprise. He has got better and better at handling himself in public, but quite often he flares up in private, expresses frustration,”. He added that the irony was that if his comments had not been picked up, it would have been a lively election exchange which would have been seen to do him credit.

Brown’s grovelling apology, though no doubt necessary, made me cringe even more: “Of course I apologise if I’ve said anything that’s been offensive and I would never put myself in a position where I would want to say anything like that about a woman I’d met. “I blame myself for what is done, but you’ve got to remember that this was me being helpful to the broadcasters, with my microphone on, rushing into the car because I had to get to another appointment and they have chosen to play my private conversation. These things can happen, I apologise profusely to the lady concerned.”

Chancellor Alistair Darling defended Brown saying that “the election campaign will be decided not just on individuals but what the party stands for. There are big issues at stake. Gordon is a man of considerable strength, considerable resilience and considerable substance,” he said. “I hope people will judge him in the round. The fact we are coming out of this recession is down to him in no small part.”

Unfortunately for Brown, his strong moral compass catches him out when it’s not shared by others, particularly when they’re the ones whose votes he needs. And particularly when he will make such an obvious broadcasting error.

Elections envoke the most heated of media trails after all.

Make sure you’re not making schoolboy errors like Gordon’s – have a read of our broadcast media guide:  


Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd, www.bluewoodtraining.com

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