Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Sleepy Rochdale has never seen anything like Brown bigot row

The people of Rochdale had never seen anything quite like this media whirlwind.

More used to jetting to the White House or the UN for high-level talks with other world leaders, a humbled Prime Minister had come to say sorry to a 65-year-old grandmother.

Gordon Brown had already apologised publicly on the radio, followed by a personal phone call to Mrs Duffy.

But as the crisis deepened, he turned tail and headed back to Rochdale.

His cavalcade, with police motorcycle outriders, swept into Tintern Avenue and, with a smile and a “hello” to reporters, Mr Brown jumped out of his bullet-proof Jaguar and entered Mrs Duffy's house, not at high noon, but at three minutes past three.

Four of Mr Brown's personal bodyguards anxiously scanned the media scrum camped outside the house awaiting news.

With every shadow cast behind the porch's frosted glass window, the nervous Press pack edged ever closer to the door. Standing around in Mrs Duffy's red-brick drive, camera crews, TV anchormen, political correspondents and photographers jostled for space, as the summit meeting unfolded.

As time went on and word spread, groups of teenagers fresh from school arrived, joined by curious neighbours along with council workers who had downed tools to see what the fuss was about.

More police arrived, followed by more reporters, followed by yet more police and then yet more reporters.

What was being said inside no-one yet knows.

Mrs Duffy's white front door was kept firmly closed.

What is known is that Mr Brown probably spent more time at Number 6 than he has with the heads of state of some more minor Eastern European partners.

Just under 40 minutes later, peace had seemingly broken out.

Mr Brown emerged from the porch, Mrs Duffy's wind-chimes, embossed with “Minorca”, tinkling behind him, to address the media.

Penitent and remorseful, he apologised profusely before he was off, enveloped by an unseemly media scrum.

Left behind at the bottom of Mrs Duffy's stairs, beside a black and white china poodle, stood a small wooden plaque to greet visitors.

Labelled “An Irish Proverb” it reads, somewhat prophetically, “May the roof of your house never fall in and those within never fall out.”

It was where Mrs Duffy earlier told reporters she had left her postal vote ready for mailing.

Only one piece of literature remained — a canvassing leaflet from the local Liberal Dems candidate.

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