The news that Obama’s 2012 Campaign Manager Jim Messina will be advising the Tories on the 2015 election campaign is a blow. Whilst US political campaigns are markedly different to their British alternatives – not least because there’s precious little money in British politics compared to America – I’m sure he will use impressive political and campaigning nous to the benefit of the Tories between now and 2015.
The odds of Labour winning the next election just got a little longer.
Evidently there’s an element of “gun for hire” about Messina going to work for the Tories. Obama’s Democrats have little in common with Cameron’s Tories – especially on the key electoral issue of the economy, where Obama went for a stimulus and Cameron went for austerity. But it’s somewhat painful to see that a senior Democrat – albeit one who is to the right of the Labour Party – thinks that the Tories are the right horse to back in 2015.
Jim Messina is a superb hire for the Tories – I wish Labour had hired him.
But what’s depressing is the contrast between how the Tories and Labour are approaching general election planning. Whilst the Tories are assiduously searching the globe for the most effective political consultants money can buy – regardless of party affiliation – Ed Miliband still hasn’t appointed a replacement for Tom Watson (one of the few Labour politicians who is a strategic campaigner). At the moment it looks worryingly like Miliband is trying to decide which one of his mates from the Shadow Cabinet to appoint to run the General Election campaign.
The real fear is that Labour will fudge the issue and have the General Election campaign run by committee – a recipe for total message ill-discipline and strategic disaster.
Perhaps it’s time to consider whether or not having a General Election campaign run by a politician is realistic. It’s beginning to look remarkably homsepun that whilst the other parties bring in professionals with a track record of running election campaigns around the world, the bar for what is considered “campaign management experience” in the Labour Party is embarrassingly low. Even the Lib Dems have their own overseas campaign whizz Ryan Coetzee. The Labour Party had made a great start, hiring the excellent Matthew McGregor fresh out of the Obama campaign to steer the party’s digital output, but other Obama campaign veterans who might have come to work for Labour have failed to materialise.
There is very little time to go until the next election. Time spent considering which politician should be running the election campaign is time wasted. Labour should – money permitting – be trying to hire the best political campaigners available to run our election campaign. If the Tories have hired Jim Messina, then Labour could do much worse than approaching David Axelrod – who has recently left the White House – to run a professional, experienced campaign for Downing Street.
The Tories now have Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina – Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker, if you will. Who do we have? At the moment. No-one. And that’s starting to look complacent at best and embarrassing at worst.