UPDATE:Gordon Brown has sent the following email to Labour supporters:
As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.
I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make.
Many of you know me personally. 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 this morning.
I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.
But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.
The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.
You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.
UPDATE: Brown’s comment is reportedly a reaction to Mrs Duffy’s remarks about immigration. That’s particularly upsetting, since LabourList has been trying to stress the importance of having an honest conversation with voters about immigration for months, for example here and here.
Yesterday, I wrote that I’d like to see Gordon Brown get “dirtier” with the public and open a street dialogue with the voting public on the campaign trail. Today, in Rochdale, Brown was apparently dealing with one such situation adriotly, responding to Gillian Duffy’s concerns about pensions and the national debt.
Unfortunately, the story will now be about what Brown said in his car afterwards, about Mrs Duffy being a “bigoted woman.”
These comments were obviously rude and unfair. They will have offended Mrs Duffy and many others like her.
Brown has already apologised to Mrs Duffy. “I hope she accepts that apology”, he added.
For activists who are fighting hard in this campaign, we cannot allow this to demotivate us: in a Channel 4 poll just taken, 70% of respondents said such a comment will not make them less likely to vote Labour.
And where I’m fighting, in Islington, and all around the country, there are bigger things at stake than worrying too much about one personality or a comment Brown should never have made. Those are the issues – housing, the economy, jobs – that this election was always going to be about.