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Jess Benhamou has published 7 articles

Benet's head ejected for Brown heckle

Academic ejected for shouting "We're broke!"
Jess Benhamou on Thursday 6th May 2010

The Dean of St. Benet's Hall was escorted out of a Labour election campaign meeting on Saturday on "public order" grounds.

Julian Borthwick was led out of the National Glass Centre in Sunderland by Gordon Brown's police protection officers after questioning Brown about his reference to Gillian Duffy as a "bigoted woman".

The Prime Minister carried on speaking while Borthwick, shouting "we're broke", was escorted from the room. He was not allowed back into the venue until Mr Brown had left.

Borthwick had questioned Brown about the incident with voter Gillian Duffy, asking, "What about that bigoted woman?".

The remark refered to the widely reported incident earlier in the week in which Brown was overheard referring to Mrs Duffy as a "bigoted woman" on a Sky News microphone. This occurred after she had asked him about his tax policies and how he would pay back Britain's escalating national debt.

Brown would not answer the Dean's question, saying there would be "plenty of time" to do so later.

Borthwick spoke to Cherwell about his banishment from the speech.

"I strongly suspect the reason why Brown couldn't handle a comment was that he, like an automata, was reading the text from the two auto prompters alternating between the left and right," he said.

"There is no real dialogue with the voters".

One woman present at the meeting tried to stop Borthwick asking his question and forcibly grabbed him by the arm, repeatedly shouting at him to "Get out". She told him, "this isn't about getting your name in the Press" and branded him an "attention-seeker" and an "idiot".

Borthwick said he was annoyed that the Prime Minister had such limited contact with the public while he was on the campaign trail.

"Real politicians are going around talking to real people and Mr Brown isn't doing that. Mr Brown needs to see real electors, not just hand-picked people", he said.

The Dean of St. Benet's, which is one of Oxford's Permanent Private Halls, said, "The event on Saturday had almost no connection with Sunderland, it could have taken place anywhere.

"Election campaigns can't be limited to parachuting in supposed politicians to read other people's texts from auto prompters to the waiting media.

"I see that he repeated the exercise in Manchester yesterday, and will keep doing this until the electorate decide that they require more from their politicians than toggling from left to right reading other people's autoprompted texts in front of a rather sinister electronic ‘countryside' projected backdrop".

Borthwick had been specially invited to the meeting by Labour party supporters, although he is not a member.

He says he is not a "political person" or a member of any party, despite Labour officials' claims he was a Conservative.

"I hadn't followed the election until Mrs Duffy got involved. It's all so stage-managed and I felt that somebody really needed to confront Gordon Brown," he said.