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Gordon won't be getting my vote: Gillian Duffy reveals what REALLY upset her about that devastating

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Gordon won't be getting my vote: Gillian Duffy reveals what REALLY upset her about that devastating exchange with PM



By Laura Collins, Andrew Chapman and Simon Walters

Last updated at 11:08 AM on 2nd May 2010


  • So disgusted with PM's behaviour she threw away voting form
  • MoS poll puts Tories on 34%, Lib Dems on 30%, Labour on 27%

The woman branded a ‘bigot’ by Gordon Brown launched an outspoken attack on the Prime Minister last night, as a new poll showed David Cameron on course to win the Election, but with too few MPs to rule on his own.

Rochdale grandmother Gillian Duffy, whose encounter with Mr Brown threatens to turn a Labour defeat into a rout, told the Prime Minister she pitied him and said his days in Downing Street were numbered.


What hurt her most of all was not the word ‘bigot’, but the way he referred to her as ‘that woman’.



article-1270337-095FDF0E000005DC-753_468x394.jpg Protest vote: Gillian Duffy with her postal ballot, which she is now too disillusioned to return




Mail on Sunday

Tories 34%; Lib Dem 30; Labour 27%


Sunday Telegraph

Tories 36%; Labour 29%; Lib Dem 27%


News Of The World

Tories 35%; Labour 35%; Lib Dem 22%


Sunday Times

Tories 35%; Lib Dem 28%; Labour 27%


Sunday Mirror

Tories 38%; Labour 28%; Lib Dem 25%


Sunday Express

Tories 35%; Lib Dem 29%; Labour 23%



Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Mrs Duffy, right, said: ‘I’m not “that woman”. It’s no way to talk of someone, that, is it? As if I’m to be brushed away. Why couldn’t he have said “that lady”?’






Nor was Mrs Duffy impressed when he came to her house, made a grovelling apology and invited her to No10 to visit him and his wife Sarah.


‘He asked, “Do you ever come down to London? If you ever come down you must come to No.10 and meet me and Sarah,”’ Mrs Duffy revealed. ‘Well, I just looked at him. I didn’t like to say it, but all I could think was, “I don’t think you’ll be there.”’

In spite of the Prime Minister’s attempt to make amends, lifelong Labour supporter Mrs Duffy says she will not vote for Mr Brown – or indeed for any other party – on Thursday. She was so disgusted by the Prime Minister’s conduct that she threw away her postal voting form.

Her hard-hitting comments come as a BPIX survey for The Mail on Sunday underlines the extent of the damage caused to Labour by the so-called ‘Bigotgate’ affair – sparked when unguarded comments Mr Brown made after meeting Mrs Duffy were caught on a microphone that he had forgotten to remove.

The poll puts the Conservatives on 34 per cent, with the Lib Dems on 30 and Labour trailing a poor third on 27. The ratings are not enough to secure outright victory for Mr Cameron, although a number of other polls showed him closer to the winning line.

The Sunday Telegraph has the Tories on 36 per cent ahead of Labour on 29 per cent and the Lib Dems on 27 per cent while the Sunday Times has the Conservatives on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 28 per cent followed by Labour on 27 per cent.


In her interview with The Mail on Sunday, widowed Mrs Duffy, 65, who has been honoured for her 30 years’ work with special needs children, spoke of her shock and sadness at being ‘shot down’ by a man and a party she had believed would support her.


article-1270337-0956FA1E000005DC-377_468x437.jpg Flashpoint Rochdale: Gillian Duffy meets Gordon Brown in the street - inadvertently sparking Labour's biggest crisis of the election


She described how she refused to be drawn into a staged handshake with Mr Brown for the TV cameras on her doorstep. And she said Mr Brown should never have succeeded Tony Blair without a mandate from the electorate.


‘All I did was ask what was on my mind and the questions that most people want to have answered. Does that make me a bigot? I think Gordon would like to just forget about it and move on but it’s not as easy as that.

‘Sorry is a very easy word. I’m not voting this year. I’ll cast my vote in the local council elections but not the General Election.

‘Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should be able to answer questions about the economy, shouldn’t he? But he can’t. If you say you want to go out and meet the people you should have some answers.’


During the 45 minutes that the Prime Minister spent eating humble pie in Mrs Duffy’s sitting room, she quizzed him again, asking about issues including the national debt, benefits, tax credits and immigration.

But nothing he said convinced her that she should take part in a public ‘kiss and make up’ photo opportunity, or vote for him on Thursday.


‘He wanted me to go outside with him shake hands in front of all the cameras but I didn’t want that fuss.’

She is still stunned by the events that saw her make front-page news. ‘I can’t believe it, what happened,’ she said. ‘It’s unreal to me. I was shocked at the time and still am.


They say you go through stages of emotions and that you get angry. But I’m not angry. I’m sad, really.


‘I’d often said to my brother, “I wish Gordon Brown would come to Rochdale. I’d like to meet him, I’d like to talk to him.” Well, I wish he hadn’t bothered now.


‘He was smiling when he spoke to me but he was thinking that. What else is he thinking when he smiles?’


And she told the Prime Minister: ‘I’m sorry for you, Gordon, because you have more to lose than me. I’m very sorry that this has happened but it’s you who’s going to lose out, not me.’



The redoubtable Gillian Duffy on Gordon Brown's grovelling 45-minute apology


By Laura Collins


article-1270337-095FE695000005DC-162_233x423.jpg Where the apology took place: Mrs Duffy pictured at home where she received Gordon Brown


His withering – and unjustified – description of her as a bigot sparked THE story of the Election. Now the redoubtable Gillian Duffy reveals in all its damning detail Gordon Brown’s grovelling 45-minute apology – and why she wouldn’t shake his hand, give him her vote (or open the Scotch for him)

It is a meeting that will go down in history and may yet prove the Election’s – more particularly Gordon Brown’s – defining moment. Never mind the leafleting, the multi-million-pound broadcasts, the graphics and polls and think-tanks, it was a chance meeting with a pensioner on a street in Rochdale that could prove the tipping point of the campaign.

What followed was both shocking and extraordinary as the Prime Minister’s public face slipped, thanks to a forgotten microphone and a candid conversation in the back of his Jaguar, to reveal an altogether different and, he thought, private reality.

Last Wednesday Mr Brown was caught on tape describing pensioner and lifelong Labour supporter Gillian Duffy as ‘just a sort of bigoted woman’.


Moments earlier he had ‘smiled’ at her, patted her on the shoulder and called her a ‘good woman,’ to her face.

Later alerted to his faux pas, Mr Brown held his head in his hands, and looked wrung out. He telephoned Mrs Duffy to apologise and, later that same day, scrapped what plans he had so he could visit her home and apologise in person.

Perhaps he envisaged a swift ‘I’m sorry’, a handshake for the cameras and absolution. But then he had already proved his judgment to be wide of the mark once that day.

For 45 minutes, the door of Mrs Duffy’s neat little Rochdale home remained firmly shut. And with just days to go before polling day, it was the machinations behind that ordinary white door, rather than anything going on in No10 Downing Street, that held the electorate rapt.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Gillian has revealed exactly what was said during that unprecedented conversation. She has spoken of her own dismay and profound hurt at the events that led to the Prime Minister’s grovelling visit.


And she has revealed that, even though Mr Brown stood at her door and declared the meeting a success, she has since discarded her postal voting slip and vowed to abstain from voting for the first time in a life characterised by strong political belief.

She says: ‘I still can’t believe it, what happened. It’s unreal to me. I was shocked at the time and I still am. They say you go through stages of emotions and that you get angry. But I’m not angry. I’m sad, really.


article-1270337-095D99E2000005DC-373_468x664.jpg Devoted: Mrs Duffy pictured with husband Richard on their wedding day in 1966


‘I’ve always loved my country. I love my town, too, but I’m getting upset about what I see happening to Rochdale.


We’ve hardly any good shops, Woolworths has gone, all the new ones moving in are pound shops and cheap shops. There used to be two lovely big markets – now you can walk round the one small one in a few minutes. And where are the jobs?

‘I’d often said to my brother, “I wish Gordon Brown would come to Rochdale. I’d like to meet him, I’d like to talk to him.” Well, I wish he hadn’t bothered now.

‘He was smiling when he spoke to me but he was thinking that. What else is he thinking when he smiles?

‘If you’re going to go and talk to people you should have answers shouldn’t you? You don’t just go there and shake their hands and tell them how well they’re doing.

‘All I did was ask questions. Does that make me a bigot?’


Tellingly, after 45 minutes’ one-to-one with Mr Brown, expressing her concerns with the eloquence for which she is now famous, Gillian still hasn’t got the answers she sought.

But then, as she recalls it, her visit from the Prime Minister was not so much an apology but a prolonged self-justification – a plea to be understood from a man whose business should be listening to and understanding others.

‘I only went out for a loaf of bread,’ Gillian despairs, her eyes widening as she recalls her first encounter with Mr Brown.

‘I was walking up to the shops when I saw some commotion, there were police there and the road was blocked off a bit. I thought there had been a car crash. But I asked someone and they said that Gordon Brown was there and I thought, “Ooh, I’m going to go and see him.”

‘There were more Press than ordinary people there so I was quite close really, even though I was at the back, and I shouted out, “What are you going to do about this debt, Gordon?” That’s the only time I shouted, just to get his attention.’

Initially though, while there was a flicker of alarmed acknowledgment from Mr Brown, it was Labour candidate Simon Danczuk whose attention she caught. He made a beeline over to Gillian. He established that she was a supporter – crucial that – and, within moments she found herself introduced to the Prime Minister.

article-1270337-095FF214000005DC-27_468x362.jpg Dedication to her job: She receives a long-service award from Rochdale's mayor

‘I know later Gordon blamed Sue [Nye, his gatekeeper] for introducing me but it wasn’t Sue,’ Gillian says adding with genuine concern. ‘I was that worried about Sue. I thought, “I hope she doesn’t lose her job.” I was looking for her on telly the next day and I was very glad to see her there with Gordon in Birmingham.’

As for the now infamous street conversation, Gillian thought it was just that, a conversation, although it has since been referred to as a confrontation.

‘You probably know better than me what I said now,’ she says. ‘I’d been watching the news bulletins earlier in the day and they were talking about the national debt and how none of the politicians are mentioning that and I thought I’d ask him about that.

‘I wasn’t asking for myself. I’m thinking about my daughter and my grandchildren who are ten and 12. They’re the ones who’ll be paying and paying, aren’t they?

‘I did say to him that I thought the schools in Rochdale were very good but I’ve lived in Rochdale all my life and I see what’s happening and it makes me worried and sad.

‘I know that afterwards everyone picked up on immigration but I hardly mentioned that really, did I?’

It would be fair to say that, even before the catastrophe that would unfold that day, Mr Brown hadn’t made a great impression on Gillian.


She had, after all, wanted answers to her genuine questions, not a pat on the shoulder, a patronising faux smile and to be told, apropos of nothing, that she was ‘a good family woman’.


‘Well I wasn’t going to argue,’ she says. ‘I am a good woman but how the heck is he to know that?’

Still, she concluded after their pavement chat that Mr Brown was ‘the best of a bad bunch’, and carried on her way to the shops.



article-1270337-095FF8E1000005DC-314_468x382.jpg Long marriage: On holiday with her late husband Richard



‘I got halfway up the hill and thought I’d better phone my daughter Debbie to warn her I might be on telly. I said, “Don’t be mad at me but I just spoke to Gordon and it might be a small bit on the news.” Then I thought I’d better just head home and see.’

Turning on her heel Gillian retraced her steps and was met by a throng of journalists as she did. ‘There’s been a development,’ she was told by a reporter from Sky News, whose microphone had been attached to the Prime Minister’s lapel.

‘I didn’t understand at first,’ Gillian reflects. ‘I went to sit at the back of the van where they played me the tape. Everyone was watching as they played it back. They had to play it twice to me. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even quite sure what the word really meant. I called Debbie and had to ask her. Then I thought, why has he called me that?’

For a moment Gillian looks bereft. Then, gathering herself, she adds: ‘I saw myself later on telly and I had to laugh. Somebody asked me what I was going to do and I just said, “Oh, I’d best go home.”

‘Then I waddled off like a penguin, I looked so despondent.’

She roars with laughter and, not for the first time, the extent to which Mr Brown misjudged this woman is clear.

Gillian had been home for about 20 minutes when there was a knock on the door from one of Mr Brown’s aides. It wasn’t the first knock, as much to her bemusement a Press pack had already assembled outside.


article-1270337-095D99EA000005DC-858_233x569.jpg Family life: Gillian's father Walter in The Royal Engineers during World War Two


The publicity officer asked Gillian if she would accept a telephone call from Mr Brown and informed her that the Prime Minister was, ‘very sorry’ and that he wanted to apologise.

‘The telephone went, I answered it and Gordon said, “I’m very sorry. I misheard what you were trying to get across. There was a lot of noise.” Well, I didn’t think there was that much noise.’


Gillian can’t remember whether it was the Prime Minister or his PR officer’s suggestion that he come to visit. By the time he arrived she had seen the footage of him, head in hands, as his words were played back to him on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show.


Did she feel any sympathy for him when he arrived?

‘Not really. I saw him and I thought he was in a state, but he fetched it on himself, didn’t he? I didn’t abuse him. He abused me. I just talked to him.’

Gillian had taken the newspapers off the sofa and washed the pots in the sink in readiness for the Prime Ministerial visit – ‘not that he was going to be in the kitchen. I keep a tidy house so there wasn’t much to do. It’s just me by myself’.

Gillian, who was married for 40 years and has been a widow for four, recalls: ‘Gordon came in and sat on sofa beside me. I couldn’t offer him a cup of tea because I didn’t have any milk did I?

‘I had a bottle of whisky that I’d bought to take with me when I go to visit friends in Canada, but I thought, “I’m not opening that for him!” As he came in he just said, “I’m very sorry for the comments I made earlier Gillian.” I sort of said, “Yes well I suppose...”

‘He said, “I’m a family man, have you a family?” Well, I’d already told him I had.’

Mr Brown sat on the edge of Gillian’s cream leather couch. Head slightly bowed, hands clasped anxiously at his knees, he smiled very little and often looked down, adopting the pose of a penitent.


He looks younger in the flesh than he does on camera, Gillian kindly observes.

‘He said, “You do know my father was a Presbyterian minister and I was brought up with family values.”

‘I told him that my family had worked hard all our lives.

‘My brother was a bricklayer. My father was a window-cleaner, my husband was a painter and decorator and they were both strong union men. I worked in the council education department for 30 years, as a supervisor and escorting disabled children to and from school, looking after them.

‘None of us have ever been in any trouble. And all of us have had to work all our lives and this country’s fetched up a generation of people who won’t work.

‘Well, he just said, “I’m so sorry – please take my apology.”

‘I said, “You know, Gordon, my father was a very politically minded man and very argumentative. He upset a lot of people and he would say to me, “Don’t worry about it, Gillian, you can always say sorry.” I told him, “No, Dad, it doesn’t work like that, sorry is a very easy word.”

‘I said, “I’m sorry for you, Gordon, because you have more to lose than me. I’m very sorry that this has happened but it’s you who’s going to lose out not me.”’

If there were a point where Mr Brown realised that this was not going to be an easy ‘in and out’ visit that was probably it. He looked at the 65-year-old earnestly blinking at him through her spectacles and tried a different strategy: ‘Have you met Sarah?’ he asked.

Even as she recounts this today, Gillian looks bewildered by the shift in conversation. ‘Well, how would I have met his wife?’ she says sensibly.

‘He spoke a lot about Sarah. He said she was a good woman and he asked whether I knew he had two lads and I said yes. Well, I knew he had two children, I didn’t know they were both lads.

‘Then he asked, “Do you ever come down to London?” And said, “If you ever come down you must come to No10 and meet me and Sarah.”

‘Well, I just looked at him. I didn’t like to say it, but all I could think was, “I don’t think you’ll be there.”’

Besides, Gillian didn’t want to exchange awkward small-talk with the Prime Minister, she wanted to talk to him about the things that matter. She raised the subject which had sparked the whole saga in the first place:

‘I said to him, “What are you going to do about the debt, Gordon? Greece is down and now Spain and Portugal have lost their credit rating. Who’s next?” I’m going on holiday to Canada and I used to get $2.50 to the £1. When I go to change my currency this time I’ll be lucky if I get $1.50.


article-1270337-095FF8DD000005DC-491_468x340.jpg On holiday in Margate as a young girl with her mother Nellie and father Walter (right) and other family members


‘Then I asked him about all this trouble with the volcanic ash cloud. I said if we’re in the EU, why were people allowed to charge stranded tourists €500 for a coach ticket to take them to Calais – that’s €500 for children as well?

‘Why didn’t the other European governments step in to stop that? And what happens now?

‘When the airports were closed, the volcanic ash was top priority but now they’re open, it’s just disappeared – how can that be? The volcano’s still erupting and people need help and advice on claiming compensation, but it’s just disappeared off the map, hasn’t it?

‘Sometimes I don’t think these politicians live in the real world. I asked him, “If you and Sarah were to go out for a nice meal with a bottle of wine in London I bet it would cost you more than £60 wouldn’t it?” And if you live in London you might do that twice, maybe more, a week?

‘Well, pensioners are living on £60 a week up here, I know that with Pension Credit it might be more, but not everyone is on that. And what you get on one hand you lose on the other.

‘During the winter when they did the cold allowance, £250 I think it was, they did an extra bit, but I wasn’t eligible. And why do I pay tax on my pension because my husband’s pension has been added to it since he died?’

And what was the Prime Minister’s response?

‘Well, he just looked at me,’ Gillian says. ‘He kept saying he was sorry and saying that his wife was a nice lady. Well, I bet she doesn’t leave his side now – she’s his PR, isn’t she?

‘The thing is, I’m the sort of person he was meant to look after, not shoot down.’

Gillian says this without any rancour but with genuine, and affecting, dismay. And it’s true. If Labour HQ had hand-picked somebody to meet Mr Brown they’d have been delighted to find Gillian.

Her father, Walter, was secretary for the local branch of the Federation for Window Cleaners. Her mother, Nellie, from nearby Norden was a weaver working at the mills.

In their early days of courtship, Walter took Nellie on a date to Manchester, to the Free Trade Hall which culminated in singing the Socialist anthem The Red Flag. ‘He weren’t much of a romantic,’ Gillian laughs.

Walter and Nellie spent their early married life in Middleton, a couple of miles from Rochdale, and when war broke out in 1939, Gillian is proud to recount that her father was among the first to sign up for the Army and the last to return home.


He served with the Royal Engineers in India. Back home he set up his own business. He was ambitious to improve the lot of his family, Gillian and her brother Ralph, five years her senior.


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‘He moved with the times,’ Gillian says. ‘When he went down south and saw televisions for the first time he came back home and told my mother we were going to get one.


article-1270337-09582B11000005DC-500_468x273.jpg Media circus: Mrs Duffy's home became the centre of the scandal last week in Rochdale


‘The whole row watched the Queen’s Coronation on our 12-inch telly. He was forever coming home with the latest vacuum cleaner or what have you. They were so heavy to use my mother would have been better with a dustpan and brush...we only had a two-up, two-down.’

At 15, Gillian went to work for the Co-operative Society in Rochdale as a sales assistant. She worked there for three years before moving on to a factory in Rochdale.

She was 21 when she married Richard Duffy, something of a political firebrand himself; a principled man and lifelong union member.


When their daughter Debbie was born Gillian stopped work, returning as a break-time supervisor at a local school only when Debbie was old enough to go to school.

‘For the first few years my salary paid for Debbie’s school fees. My husband was Catholic and we sent Debbie to the convent which was private, but after about three years they put the fees up so we couldn’t afford it any more.

‘She went to the local state Catholic schools all the way through and I have to say the education was marvellous. I said that to Gordon.’

One wonders whether he listened.

Her family means everything to Gillian. A framed picture of her grandchildren sits on top of the television set – one of many family pictures she proudly displays throughout her comfortable home – and she intends to donate part of the fee for this interview to her grandson’s school football team, which she says recently became the first Rochdale team to make it to the finals of the National English Schools Cup. They play at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium next month and she couldn’t be more proud.

She’ll give money to her local church too, she says. ‘The rest is all for my grandchildren really,’ she adds. ‘I give them everything.’

Nothing would ever shake Gillian’s belief in the importance of family and in wanting better for them than she had for herself. But the extent to which her meeting with Mr Brown has shaken her confidence in her family’s long lineage of political belief is sad. It has knocked her in a profound way.

As a younger woman Gillian went to hear Michael Foot speak when he visited Rochdale. ‘I thought he was wild,’ she smiles. ‘He was a one of a kind, wasn’t he?’

And in 1997 Tony Blair visited the school where Gillian worked. ‘Richard and I went,’ she remembers.

‘I didn’t talk to Mr Blair, but we listened and he seemed to me like a young man full of fresh, exciting ideas. We came away really satisfied. I was happy. He could put himself across well.’

Then Mr Brown rolled into town and after meeting him not once, but twice, a woman who has voted Labour all her life has lost all faith.

‘When Tony Blair finished, Gordon Brown should have gone to the country,’ Gillian says, voicing an opinion shared by many. ‘You can’t just walk in and say I’m Prime Minister and that’s that.’

And you can’t just walk in and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and expect that to be that either, it seems.

Throughout their second meeting, Mr Brown’s aide Sue Nye had hovered nervously by the door along with a publicity officer. As their conversation came to an end, Mr Brown stood in readiness to move on to the photo opportunity which, no doubt, he had hoped would wipe away the stain of this particularly unpleasant episode.

Gillian says: ‘He wanted me to go outside with him and shake his hands for the camera but I said no. I didn’t want that fuss.

‘He stood for a minute or so and looked at me and said, “So are you accepting my apology, Gillian?”

‘I said yes, but I wasn’t going outside.’

Mr Brown emerged like a statesman who had just negotiated a complex peace treaty. He smiled the tight smile he had occasionally flashed at Gillian as he apologised.

The next day Gillian’s postal vote slip arrived. She filled in the council election slip and discarded the General Election slip and sealed up the envelope without it.

‘Richard used to say you must vote,’ she says softly. ‘He used to say if you don’t vote you’ve no say later. But I can’t bring myself to.’

Watching the final leaders’ debate last Thursday made no difference as far as that is concerned. ‘I don’t think Gordon came across at all well,’ she says.

‘He did mention what happened as if he wanted to forget about it. Well, I thought, it’ll take more than that, Gordon. I think David Cameron knows he’s three-quarters of the way there.’

In the days since the infamous gaffe, various excuses have been offered for the outburst.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman on Friday, Mr Brown offered the explanation: ‘I thought she was talking about expelling all university students from here who were foreigners.


I misunderstood it. Look, people say things in the heat of the moment, when you get angry, and you’ve got to apologise for it.’

But when told of this, Mrs Duffy looks horrified by the suggestion that is anything like what she meant, saying: ‘I never said anything about expelling students or sending Eastern European students back home.’

Another suggestion circulating, from anonymous sources, is that Mr Brown thought that Gillian had sworn on the street – and it was that which put him in such a foul mood.

Yet again the smear reveals a profound lack of judgment. Gillian says: ‘It’s an awful thing to say I swore or that he thought I did.

‘They’ve come out with that because he said he misunderstood me. The Labour Party is just a big machine with spin doctors and what have you and they’re doing everything to get him in. I should think that’s where that came from.

My family never swore. My husband Richard never swore though he worked in the building trade with men under him all his life. He said you could make your argument without using language.’

A point that, with her eloquence, Gillian repeatedly proves. Pausing she says: ‘You know the thing that upset me the most wasn’t the word bigot.


It was the way he called me “that woman”. I’m not “that woman”. It’s no way to talk of someone that is it? As if I’m to be brushed away. Why couldn’t he have said, “that lady?”’

Perhaps, to Mr Brown, that seems a small point. Certainly it didn’t feature in his apology. But it exposes the gulf between the values for which Gillian Duffy stands, and by which she actually lives, and the platitudes that Mr Brown mouths in public then disdains in private.



Rochdale is my town, too ...and it sums up the whole sham of the past 13 years


by Liz Kershaw, writer and broadcaster


The real fuss that followed Gordon Brown’s run-in with Gillian Duffy in Rochdale shouldn’t have been about microphones or manners, but about why she said what she did.

Had he listened more carefully, the Labour leader would have realised that Mrs Duffy’s concerns about immigration and employment raised fundamental questions about the real state of the British economy.

She was speaking, from experience, about life in a town – my home town – that is mired in post-industrial decline and is likely to remain so.


article-1270337-03955E4B000005DC-813_468x286.jpg Post-industrial decline: An estate in Rochdale, where unemployment is at the highest levels for 15 years


People in Rochdale do not look at economic graphs and talk about double-dip recessions and the credit crunch. Their economy is flatlining. And it has been for years.

A recent study by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities suggested that Rochdale will not get back to pre-2008 levels of employment until at least 2023. It’s a human disaster, and it’s heartbreaking for someone who grew up there, fiercely proud of my heritage.

I wonder what my grandparents, who lived in the town’s Irish ghetto, operated cotton looms at the age of 12 and worked their way out of poverty with the help of the Labour movement, would make of the place now. It makes me cry just to think about it.

The estate where my grandparents once kept a pub is now one of the most deprived in the country and exists on an endemic benefits culture.

The town centre, once bustling with character, now boasts 53 empty shops.


Unemployment is the worst in Greater Manchester and is at a 15-year high. There is little private-sector investment.

I wonder what my grandparents would have made of hardworking Mrs Duffy’s encounter with their champion and hero; the man they helped make Labour Prime Minister.

Gillian Duffy gave Gordon a good grilling. My posh Southern kids, who’ve grown up giggling at my funny Northern ways, instantly took to the no-nonsense granny. They’re sick of the Election but were suddenly impressed. ‘I’d vote for her!’ they shouted at the telly.

Thank you, Gillian Duffy. You are not a bigot. You are just like my Mum or my Grandma. You are struggling and worried for the future.


article-1270337-03EE5A82000005DC-84_468x313.jpg The economy is flatlining: Rochdale where homes are boarded up and shops are closed down in the main shopping street


You don’t want your nearest and dearest to be a forgotten generation. You want the best for them but they’re not going to get it in Rochdale. Yes, you’ve put a dying town under the microscope.

Rochdale is typical of many parts of Britain. There, the economic boasts of the past 13 years have been a massive deceit.


You cannot replace manufacturing with retailing and the welfare state and sustain the prosperity I enjoyed as a child. If you want to see the rot in this country, go to Rochdale.

Gillian asked Gordon about the influx of Eastern Europeans.

Why? There have always been immigrants in Rochdale. First from the surrounding countryside when the mills went up. Then came the Irish at the beginning of the last century, and since the Fifties, Pakistanis to man the machines. And along the way Poles, Ukranians and Yugoslavians.

Forty years ago, my class was full of Eastern Europeans. Nobody had a problem with that because there were plenty of jobs to go round. The good times and a massive house building programme were rolling.

The estate Mrs Duffy lives on went up before my eyes, one of the many that sprang up in the Sixties.


My friends’ Polish parents were all working in the cotton mills or engineering firms, bettering their kids through a great local education system run by Cyril Smith.


And when we got to university, Rochdale council gave us a grant. No repayments, no strings, no debt for us. Now, I’m told, the schools aren’t churning out the kids with skills. And those that do go away to college don’t come back.

When I’d go home from university, I’d see factories being demolished. My Grandma was sad but I was glad. She was nostalgic.

I was naive and optimistic. I thought the wrecking balls signalled a bright new future. No more clocking on. No more kids crawling under looms or teenagers toiling in dark satanic mills. Actually no more jobs at all. The manufacturing has not been replaced.

Asda moved into one mill and Rochdale shoppers were excited. Then came Tesco and Morrisons, B&Q and other ‘superstores’.


Then I started to wonder how we were all supposed to shop all day if nobody had a job. Was this creating wealth? No. You need to make things to make money to be able to spend it.

My cousin worked in a branch of Barclays bank. ‘Eee, Our Linda’s done proper well fer ’erself.’ Every Friday she had to make up hundreds of pay packets for 15 mills.


Soon it was down to ten, then three and then...well the bank’s closed now. When ‘Our Linda’ got a job at Barclays in Manchester it was a hell of a commute. Two buses, a train and a tram.

Unlike neighbouring towns, the fast public transport systems that link Bury and Bolton to the financial heart of the north have passed Rochdale by. And so too have the boom times of Manchester’s renaissance.

New high-tech companies that tried to move into the multi-million-pound publicly-funded Kingsway Business Park were put off by the lack of car parking and the council refused to help. The firms have gone to Cheshire instead.

Like many people with nous, ‘Our Linda’ moved away. So have most of the professionals the town has produced.

Last time I saw Rochdale on the telly, the rot was all too easy to see. The sight of bad teeth was jaw-dropping.


Yes, Rochdalians can boast just about the worst dental health in the country. The hospital I was born in has been demolished and the land sold off for ‘executive’ homes. What executives?

Any economic prosperity of the past 13 years has passed Rochdale by. Labour’s claims of a prosperous UK economy have been a lie.


The furore following Gillian Duffy’s chat with Gordon Brown should have exposed that. Not one chance rude remark, but the whole of the economic sham of the past 13 years.

The people of Rochdale cannot expect improvement for another 13 years unless Mr Brown starts addressing Mrs Duffy’s genuine concerns. That’s real change.

Otherwise, as they say in Rochdale: ‘He’s all fur coat and no knickers.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1270337/Gordon-

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