Brown gaffe will be ‘elephant in the room’ at TV debate

By Ian Dunt

Gordon Brown’s devastating gaffe yesterday in which he branded a Labour supporter a bigot will be “the elephant in the room” at tonight’s final TV debate, experts have warned.

Mr Brown redoubled his efforts to move on from the crisis last night with an email to Labour supporters offering them the same apology he had given Gillian Duffy.

“Many of you know me personally,” he wrote.

“You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said.”

The prime minister’s entourage clocked into crisis mode yesterday afternoon when news media starting running with the unguarded comments he made while unaware his mic was still on.

Mr Brown apologised on BBC Radio 2, then called Mrs Duffy to apologise again. He finished the day with a dramatic trip to her home, where he apologised in person. Having had the prime minister in her home for nearly half an hour, Mrs Duffy was offered more prime ministerial time that that offered to many foreign leaders.

Home secretary Alan Johnson told the BBC Mrs Duffy was an “innocent victim” and that immigration is not “off limits”.

“Gordon’s not slick, he’s not one of these people who gets up in the morning in a kind of sophisticated approach to politics,” he said.

“He’s a very human person, we all know that. This was a dreadful mistake, there’s no getting around that but we will get on tonight to talking about the economy and the important issues.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy told Sky News the events of yesterday would affect how tonight’s pivotal TV debate goes, even though it might not be mentioned.

“It won’t be mentioned by Nick Clegg or David Cameron I would imagine; it will be the elephant in the room for Gordon Brown and millions of people watching the debate tonight,” he said.

“I suspect Gordon Brown will make some reference to it in his opening speech – because if he doesn’t it will fester”.

Tonight’s debate takes place on BBC1 at 20:30 BST.