With his political future already looking shaky, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arguably had to have a gaffe-free run until parliamentary elections next month in order to increase his odds of remaining in 10 Downing St. So much for that notion.
The famously dour Brown committed a huge gaffe Wednesday when he was caught on an open microphone complaining to an aide that a constituent he had just chatted with was a "bigoted woman" and griping that his staff should have shielded him from her.
The Labor Party leader's comments were picked up by a Sky News lapel mic he and his staff had neglected to remove from the prime minister's jacket. Don't you hate when that happens?
Sky News described the encounter:
He spent nearly five minutes answering her questions and told her: "It's been very good to meet you."He smiled at the woman and then got into a waiting car.
However, a microphone picked up his words to an aide as he drove away.
Mr Brown was caught saying: "That was a disaster.
His aide asked: "What did she say?"
Mr Brown replied: "Well, just...You should never have put me with that woman.
The aide responded: "I don't know, I didn't see her. It was Sue I think..."
Mr Brown went on: "It's just ridiculous."
The aide said: "They're pictures, I'm not sure they'll go with that one."
"They'll go with it," Mr Brown said.
"What did she say," his aide asked.
Mr Brown replied: "Oh, everything, she's just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to vote Labour."
The Prime Minister had been chatting to the woman about her pension credit, crime and education before the gaffe.
She also questioned the Prime Minister about immigrants from eastern Europe and then congratulated him on his education policies in Rochdale as he walked away.
Brown later apologized for his candid comments after a recording of them was played for them. In body language that seemed to betray his sense of just how devastating the mistake was, Brown held his head in his hand as he listened to the recording.
For a politician who already lacked the common touch, who has difficulty connecting with British voters and vice versa, it was the worst kind of misstep. One of the worst things a politician can do is something that reinforces a negative narrative about him. And that is exactly what Brown has done.
If nothing else, the gaffe probably will boost the already high interest in the last of the three U.S-style debates the three men vying to lead Britain will participate in scheduled for Thursday evening, British time.