WHEN he was still secretary-general of the ANC Kgalema Motlanthe was asked by my producer to write a message in our guest register. It was simple: "Never say in private what you are not prepared to repeat in public."

WHEN he was still secretary-general of the ANC Kgalema Motlanthe was asked by my producer to write a message in our guest register. It was simple: "Never say in private what you are not prepared to repeat in public."

He should have shared this wisdom with the embattled prime minister of Britain, the dull and boring Gordon Brown, who a week before a crucial election - a life-and-death contest - has successfully sounded the death knell on his campaign.

He never was popular, and his propensity to put his foot in it has not endeared him to voters and many of his Labour Party colleagues.

They want him out, and boy is he doing a fabulous job of helping them! Someone should have recommended that he reads Politics for Dummies.

Or better still, now that it is too late for him, he should contribute to posterity by volunteering to be a case study of a yet-to-be written manual: "How not to be a politician".

During a carefully controlled walkabout earlier this week British citizen and pensioner Gillian Duffy was encouraged by Brown's aides to talk to the prime minister.

After assuring Brown that she was a lifelong Labour voter, she expressed unhappiness about a range of issues, from the national deficit to welfare benefits to immigration and tuition fees.

These are matters any leader of a country should want to hear about. The lady was neither petty nor personal in her feedback to the prime minister.

Brown emerged from the encounter reasonably well but then had the misfortune to climb into his car and forget the number one rule of broadcasting: Always assume that the microphone is on. Always!

This microphone was provided so that viewers and listeners could follow his encounters with the general public. Relaxing into his seat, Brown reflected that the exchange with Mrs Duffy had been a "disaster" and shouldn't have happened.

When asked by an aide what Mrs Duffy had said, the prime minister replied: "Oh everything ... she is just a bigoted woman."

Of course, the media heard it all and the news wires went completely crazy.

This was a gruesome and humiliating experience for Brown's campaign and for him personally. He not only had to endure hours of excruciating interviews over the matter, but had to return to Mrs Duffy's home to apologise in person.

Looking utterly crestfallen and dejected, Brown emerged from the house and pronounced that he was a "penitent sinner".

I have no doubt that at that moment he wished he were a South African politician. Here he could display the usual obnoxious and arrogant behaviour of our leaders when they have done wrong.

He could do what our politicians, especially those in power, often do: undermine the public's intelligence, treat them with disdain and, of course, follow that up with the rehearsed line, "I was quoted out of context".

Or even better, find an enemy. Who else would that be but the "forces of darkness" and "counter-revolutionaries?"

If he were South African, Brown would not have to stoop so low as to even apologise to the person he had offended.

Unfortunately for Brown, British voters will not let him get away with this one. He is going to pay.

This will very well be his ultimate undoing and the end of what has really been a lacklustre performance as PM. If every politician is allowed a few sins, being two-faced and openly dishonest is not one of them.

We know politicians lie, but to do so in so blatant a manner is revolting.

In the political sense it suggests that while the prime minister pretends to court open debate on issues of national importance, privately, he considers any criticism as bigotry, thereby confirming that he is the consummate bigot.

What is it about politicians that when they need to dig deep in their faculties and find some reserves to help them along one final hurdle, they scupper their plans by saying the most stupid things?

But Brown must not despair. He can emigrate to South Africa, compare notes with some of our dishonest parliamentarians and rest assured that he is not the only intolerant bigot around.