But one seasoned PR adviser was missing: Sarah Brown.Had she not been, a stressed Mr Brown may not have tetchily denounced poor Mrs Duffy as a "bigot"."People may say many things about Gordon, but they cannot say he doesn't care.He phoned me as soon as it happened and was absolutely mortified."She's a secret weapon," said her friend Kathy Lette, the Australian novelist."The Labour Party should unleash her." In the event, rather than be wheeled forward like a great 68-pounder carronade, Mrs Brown found herself assigned the role of medical orderly, applying dressings and ligatures to her husband's wounds. "Nice to wake up in Manchester (one of my all-time favourite cities)," she announced with characteristic warmth.The tactic was such a success that Mrs Brown is now a regular feature at the Prime Minister’s side, and has become a public figure in her own right, writing articles and appearing at fashionable events with high-profile friends such as Naomi Campbell, the model, and the children’s author JK Rowling.
Mrs Brown told of the “great privilege” of being married to the Prime Minister, adding: “He will always make the time for people, for our family, for his friends, for anyone who needs him. That he’s the one that chooses the policies and makes the calls because I’ve seen what a Prime Minister’s day is like, up close.” Repeating the trick was never going to have the same impact as a year ago, not least because Mrs Brown enjoys a far higher profile now than she did at the time of her first conference outing.
Sarah Brown must have thought for a good few moments before she composed the final words to My Day 22 of her blog last week.
"A quick stop by the Abbeyview Day Centre in Dunfermline," she typed, recalling an engagement that must have already seemed like it was from the distant past, "before jumping on the train to Manchester to meet up with Gordon and discuss his eventful day on the campaign trail." Eventful – you could say that.
We met a few local dog walkers..." If only there had been a breath of fresh air in Rochdale, there may not have been such an out-of-sorts Prime Minister, convincing himself that his on-camera exchange with Mrs Duffy had been nothing short of a disaster.
If only there had been the reassuring presence of a Mrs Brown in Rochdale, just as there was the following day at a factory in Halesowen.