This from the BBC website...strangely, it passed me by (actually, not all that strangely, given that by Day Two of the Labour Conference I was sick of the sight of politicians...even more than usual): George Osbourne (shadow chancellor, and no, one isn't supposed to know or care) apparently decided to make a "lighthearted joke" about the lovely Gordie Brown by (in response to a journalist's prompt) suggesting that he is "faintly autistic".
It's long been observed how closely politicians, when bantering with one another in Parliament, resemble the tedious flatulent public schoolboys they have never really ceased to be, calling each other names and feeling jolly clever in doing so. Course, as long as they restrict their bun-throwing to the tuck hall - sorry, the Commons - nobody notices and therefore nobody really cares. That's why conference time is so dangerous for the poor chaps: it's really the only time of the year that anyone is actually really paying much attention to what they say.
The problem is that if you spend your career locked into a gin-soaked reality bubble like the Houses of Parliament, doing little more than chucking wit-free insults at one another to a background of upper-class honking from your colleagues, you are left with very little concept of the feelings and opinions of the majority of society. I suppose that's what's most striking - and most depressing about this story. It just demonstrates how very far removed politicians often are from the society that they've been hired to represent.
I'd be willing to bet that your man Osbourne didn't realise until much, much later that comments like his would be likely to offend.
However, the quote of choice on the subject, rather splendidly, comes from the terribly nice Nick Hornby:
"George Osborne doesn't seem to have noticed that most people over the age of eight no longer use serious and distressing disabilities as a way of taunting people"
Nick Hornby, who heads a charity for autistic children