‘Bigotgate’ 10 years on: The full exchange between Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy
Today marks anniversary of then-prime minister calling Rochdale voter ‘a bigoted woman’
Gillian Duffy: My family have voted Labour all their lives. My father, even, when he was in his teens, went to Free Trade Hall to sing “The Red Flag”. And now I’m absolutely ashamed of saying I’m Labour.
Gordon Brown: Now, you mustn’t be, because, what have we done? We’ve improved the health service, we’re financing more police, neighbourhood policing, we are getting better schools, and we are coming through a very, very difficult world recession. You know what my views are. I’m for fairness, for hard-working families. I want to make sure – I’ve told these guys across there – if you commit a crime you’re going to be punished. You better stop.
GD: I don’t think it’s happening in Rochdale...
GB: We have a bit more policing than there were but obviously we are going to do better in the future with neighbourhood policing, but neighbourhood policing is the key to it. You’re a very good woman, you’ve served your community all your life.
GD: I have, I’ve worked for the Rochdale council for 30 years, and I worked with children and handicapped children.
GB: Well, I think working with children is so important, so important, isn’t it? Have you been in some of the children’s centres?
GD: The thing that I can’t understand is why am I still being taxed at 66 years old because my husband’s died and I had some of his pension tagged on to mine?
GB: Well, we are raising the threshold at which people start paying tax as pensioners. But yes, if you’ve got an occupational pension you may have to pay some tax but you may be eligible for the pension credit as well, you should check.
GD: No, no I’m not. I’ve checked and checked and they said no, they can’t do it.
GB: Well, you should look at it again just to be sure, absolutely sure.
GD: Yes, yes, they’ve told me. I’ve been down to Rochdale council to try and get it off my tax.
GB: You know we’re linking the pension to earnings in two years’ time, we’ve got the winter allowance, as you know, which I hope is a benefit.
GD: I agree with that, it’s very good, but every year I talk to people my age and they say they’ll be knocking it off, it will be going. It will be.
GB: We’re keeping it. We have done the bus passes, we have done the free eye tests, free prescriptions.
GD: But how are you going to get us out of all this debt, Gordon?
GB: Because we have got a deficit reduction plan to cut the debt in half over the next four years. We’ve got the plans, they’ve been set out today. Look, I was a person who came in...
GD: The three main things what I had drummed in when I was a child was education, health service and looking after people who are vulnerable. But there’s too many people now who aren’t vulnerable but they can claim, and people who are vulnerable can’t claim, can’t get it.
GB: But they shouldn’t be doing that, there is no life on the dole for people any more. If you are unemployed you’ve got to go back to work. It’s six months...
GD: You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re... but all these eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?
GB: A million people have come from Europe but a million British people have gone into Europe. You do know that there’s a lot of British people staying in Europe as well. Look, come back to what were your initial principles: helping people – that’s what we’re in the business of doing. A decent health service, that’s really important, and education. Now these are the things that we have tried to do. We’re going to maintain the schools so that we can make sure that people have that chance to get on. We’re going to maintain the health service so that...
GD: And what are you going to do about students who are coming in then, all this that you have to pay, you’ve scrapped that, Gordon.
GB: Which one?
GD: To help people who go to university.
GB: Tuition fees?
GB: Yeah, but look, we’ve got...
GD: I’m thinking about my grandchildren here. What will they have to pay to get into university?
GB: You’ve got 40 per cent of young people now going to university, more than ever, so you’ve got to have some balance. If you get a degree and you earn twice as much after you get the degree then you’ve got to pay something back as a contribution. But there are grants for your grandchildren, there are grants, more grants than ever before.
You know, more young people are going to university than ever before, and for the first year the majority of people going to university are women – so there’s big opportunities for women. So, education, health and helping people, that’s what I’m about. That’s what I’m about.
GD: Well, congratulations, and I hope you can keep it up.
GB: It’s been very good to meet you, and you’re wearing the right colour today. How many grandchildren do you have?
GD: Two. They’ve just come back from Australia where they’ve been stuck for nine, 10 days with this ash crisis.
GB: But they got through now? Yeah we’ve been trying to get people back quickly. But are they going to go to university? That’s the plan?
GD: I hope so. They’re only 12 and 10.
GB: Oh, they’re only 12 and 10? But they’re doing well at school?
GD: Yeah yeah, very good.
GB: A good family. Good to see you.
GD: Yeah. And the education system in Rochdale – I will congratulate it.
GB: Good. And it’s very nice to see you. Take care. Good to see you all. Thanks very much.
Gordon Brown gets in car.
GB: That was a disaster... should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that?
Aide: I don’t know, I didn’t see her.
GB: Sue [Nye]’s, I think. Just ridiculous.
Aide: Not sure that they’ll go with that one.
GB: They will go with that one.
Aide: What did she say?
GB: Everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour.
This article was originally published in April 2010