Duffy appeared to be flirting with Ukip last year, when she insisted that Labour needed a “straight-talking leader” who was comfortable with drinking a pint if it wanted to reconnect with working-class voters. She had said in an interview in May that Miliband was a “privileged” career politician who lacked the authenticity of Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader.
But the 70-year-old, from Rochdale, whom Brown famously described as a “bigoted woman” following an altercation during campaigning in 2010, said that she was in no doubt as to her voting intention in the 2015 general election.
Duffy, who supported Miliband’s brother David for the leadership in 2010, said: “I’m 100% behind Ed Miliband and we have to get rid of this coalition government. It is how I have been brought up. I just want to get rid of this Tory government.”
With three months to go to the next general election, working-class northern voters such as Duffy are a key target for all parties.
In 2010 Brown was forced to apologise to the retired council employee who had raised her concerns about immigration with the then prime minister, only for him to call her “bigoted” in a car while he still had a Sky News microphone attached to his lapel.
The moment was held up as an illustration of the way that Labour had lost touch with the concerns of the working classes.
Ukip has been the main beneficiary in northern seats although Farage’s party faces the embarrassment of a BBC documentary revealing the “jaw-dropping” views on race held by some members of the party in Thanet, Kent, where the leader is standing for a Commons seat.
On Friday, Miliband was confronted by a voter during a visit to a BAE Systems plant in Lancashire for failing to give the “working-class man” a say on Europe.
Peter Baldwin, an aircraft electrician, challenged the Labour leader over his failure to back a vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union. He said the party’s refusal to propose a referendum was putting him off voting Labour, and warned that the scale of immigration was forcing British workers out of jobs.
Asked by Miliband what his “biggest issues” with the party were, Baldwin said: “This morning we were sat in the brewery over there [for workers]. They’re all leaning now towards Ukip.”
Miliband began to outline Labour’s immigration policy of ensuring wages are not undercut by low-skilled immigration, but Baldwin cut in: “But there’s too many people here. That’s why we’ve got all these people out of work. There’s too many people here.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010