Obama veteran David Axelrod joins Labour campaign team

17th April, 2014 10:41 pm

There are few superstars in political campaigning – but David Axelrod is undoubtedly one of them.

And he’s joining Labour’s 2015 election campaign team.


The Obama veteran – who took the US President from state senator to the White House in a matter of years, and then got him re-elected – will be joining Labour’s campaign team as a Senior Strategic Adviser. That means he’ll be going head to head with fellow Obama veteran Jim Messina (now working with the Tories) in the next election.

Douglas Alexander – Labour’s Election Strategy Chair – has secured the services of Axelrod and firm AKPD to work with the party until May 2015. That’s something that Alexander is believed to have spent months working on, culminating in today’s announcement. Alexander described Axelrod’s appointment as “seriously bad news for the Conservatives” – and this will certainly put the wind up the Tory campaign over what would otherwise have been a quiet Easter weekend.

Axelrod’s role within the team will be “integral” according to party sources, and he’ll be working alongside Alexander, Campaign Director Spencer Livermore and American polling-guru Stan Greenberg. Axelrod will also participate in regular strategic discussions with Mr Miliband and the Labour campaign team.

The former Senior Adviser in President Obama’s White House will be in London for two days of strategy meetings with Mr Miliband, Harriet Harman, and other senior Shadow Cabinet members for next month, and senior figures in AKPD – including veterans from the Obama for America campaign Larry Grisolano and Mike Donilon – will also be bringing their expertise to Labour’s election planning.

Their work for Labour is expected to scale up in early 2015 as the General Election approaches.

In a statement to mark the announcement, Axelrod praised the “power” of Miliband’s ideas – and compared his economic plans and focus on living standards favourably to that of those of the US President:

“I’ve had several conversations with Ed Miliband over the course of the last year in which I have been struck by the power of his ideas, the strength of his vision and the focus he brings to solving the fundamental challenge facing Britain.

“That challenge is how you create an economy which works for everyone: an economy in which every hardworking person can get ahead and deal with the cost-of-living crisis so they can plan for the future and plan for their children.

“He understands that a growing economy demands that you have to have broad prosperity. We can’t just have prosperity hoarded by a few where people at the top are getting wealthier and wealthier but people in the middle are getting squeezed.

“This is a problem not just for Britain but everywhere in advanced economies including here in the US. Ed Miliband has a real vision of where we need to go to solve those problems. He has answers to these questions which will be very potent in the next election.

“That is how we won in the US. Barack Obama articulated a vision which had, at its core, the experience of everyday people. And everyday people responded, they organised and they overcame the odds. I see the same thing happening in Britain.”

Miliband was equally as complimentary about Axelrod, saying the strategist is “known across the world” and “a huge asset to our campaign”.

It’s certainly going to ignite interest in Labour’s campaign – last year I was writing about some of the communications and campaign specialists that Labour might be able to coax over from the Obama campaign. I listed several, but I genuinely surprised and delighted that Labour would be able to attract – or afford – anyone of the calibre of the man they call “the Axe”.

This is a big deal.

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  • i_bid

    Christ. What a farce.

  • Ben Cobley

    I know I can be an annoying pedant at times, but I’m not the only person who is getting increasingly annoyed at the constant use of ‘hardworking’ as a word with meaning – it is not a word! And is the whole purpose of life to word hard – what is it for? No wonder people turn off politics so easily. Nevertheless, good luck to him and all the team. Life isn’t perfect, so there’s no reason to expect politics to be so.


    • rekrab

      Further more Ben, why are the politicians continuing this game of “strategy?” words with little meaning to a needy public and plots to out pip the opponent.

      Wouldn’t the best course of action be? to have an alternative plan that all in politics adhere to, so that the public have a clear choice on policies.

    • Mark Worgan

      No, you’re not, especially as there’s a perfectly good way to connect two words, a hyphen.

    • treborc1

      Hard working is annoying but hell spin tends to be that way..

  • Daniel Speight

    I do wonder if there really is no talent in Britain that the politicians have to bring in Australians and Americans. Begins to look like the English cricket teams reliance on white South Africans.

    • Daniel Speight

      Not that I’m against Americans or other foreigners. In fact Ed should listen to some of them when our own political and economic gurus seem in such short supply. Here’s a link to Bill Moyers talking with Paul Krugman about Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century. Come on Jon Cruddas, let’s bring equality into the Labour Party’s discussions with the electorate. The public isn’t as stupid as the politicians and the media sometimes think.


      • Doug Smith

        Piketty presents a shocking perspective. In my view a couter-movement will emerge but given Labour’s current priorities I can’t see how the Labour Party will be able to take a lead by offering an alternative to the developing disaster described by Piketty.

        The growing inequalities, derived from a concentration of economic power are reflected by the concentration of political power in increasingly unaccountable mainstream parties. These parties, including the Labour Party, depend on spin for their credibiilty, not participation.

        Of course, Labour’s elite will refuse to include Labour activists in a democratic policy-making processes. This is because the elite believe, not on entirely without evidence, that Labour activists/members are unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole.

        But they fail to acknowledge that the elite themselves are even less representative of the electorate. Hence the reliance on consultants, spin and deceitful presentations.

        All that Labour Party members and supporters can do is plead from the sidelines and hope the elite will respond favourably. And if that doesn’t succeed then there is no option other than refusing to vote for the elite.

        • Daniel Speight

          Funny thing – I was listening to part of a Keith Joseph speech today thanks to the BBC’s well made radio programs now being available on the internet. It dated from before the first Thatcher government when Joseph was discovering the writings of Hayek and walking away from the old ‘One Nation’ Tory ideals, and taking Thatcher with him.

          Well the speech excerpt was Keith Joseph telling, I think a university student meeting, that we had to accept more inequality in society if Britain was going to survive. Although we think all politicians pay lip service to improving equality, they really don’t. The Tories and all the neo-liberal economics believers do accept inequality and other factors such as higher unemployment as a price worth paying for a purer market economy.

          That’s why it’s so important that the Labour leadership make a commitment to a more equal society, and ask that they be judged on that. This is something which the Blair governments would have failed on of course. When Blair’s people told Hattersley to stop using words like equality it was for a reason, just not to be more cool or trendy. Without a stand on equality Labour is just a pale imitation of any other Western liberal party. It would have no right to call itself social democratic.

  • Maybe David Axelrod’s first job will be to explain to Ed Balls that Obama would not have been re-elected in 2012 if he’d adopted austerity economics. That’s the reason the UK has a cost-of-living-crisis and the Eurozone has an even bigger cost-of-living-crisis. The population of the Eurozone don’t have enough spending power to buy up the potential economic output of the Eurozone.

    A sensible Keynesian stimulus is what has worked reasonably well in the USA. An even more sensible stimulus, ie a bigger one, would have probably worked even better of course!

  • Monkey_Bach

    I have no idea why people think that if you recruit the right spin-doctors their arcane secrets will enable a political party to win an election when otherwise it wouldn’t. This seems wrong to me. Surely good policies presented by honest and honourable men and women should be the way to win over the population and get them behind you rather than trying to manipulate, sway and/or trick the public into giving you their support the way the Tories do?

    Once it was more important what you were than what you pretended to be.

    In my opinion those were better days.


    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Surely good policies presented by honest and honourable men and women should be the way to seek to win the population’s trust

      As exemplified by………………..er, The Fib Dems in 2010?

      • Monkey_Bach

        More an explanation in respect to why, despite witnessing the terrible misery, suffering, injustice and harm caused by the two political parties fused into the coalition government, I still find it all but impossible to bring myself to vote for the one party left that can unseat it.


        • treborc1

          It’s a funny old world you know if you vote for labour all you will be getting is a carbon copy, a party which thinks the only success a person can have in life is hard working.
          like those pesky hard working bankers.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          But of course you voted for one of the coalition parties at the last election and this is a predictable and repetitive position that you’ve put forward. Perhaps like your heroine it’s time to
          make your mind up. It’s just a shame that (I presume) you’re unlikely to spend your time agonising over your decision in a Jesuit retreat for a month at taxpayer’s expense.

          • Monkey_Bach

            You do make me chuckle even though you seem intent on behaving like a petulant twelve year old child having a tantrum most of the time it seems to me. I suppose that your dad can beat up my dad, eh? Epic silliness off the Richter scale.


          • BillFrancisOConnor

            ‘a petulant twelve year old child having a tantrum most of the time’.

            Something no doubt you’d know a lot about being a devotee of ST.

          • Monkey_Bach

            Priceless. Eeek.

    • Plus what works in America might not work here

  • BillFrancisOConnor

    If he helps us beat this venal and malign shower- I don’t have a problem.

    • treborc1

      Which shower they tend to be very much the same.

      • gunnerbear

        Brilliantly cynical. Top Notch.

  • Daniel Speight

    I guess it will let the geeks get back to their triangulations and focus groups. Of course another answer would be for the leadership to take a principled position instead of being blown about by the wind of doctors spinning.

  • treborc1

    Spin meisters we are in love with the American model maybe even the America way of life, people like Cameron and Miliband themselves not able to stand up and show us an active CV in hard work, hire people who are good at the art of spin.

    Seems politics can no longer be honest straight forward, I suspect because Cameron and Miliband know they have one chance at this lose and your gone and you will slip into obscurity.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Why don’t we just let America run our country? Blair’s love affair with Bush got us into the Iraq war and cost our right to privacy – deal for GCHQ to share info with NSA. Brown’s love affair with the American tripartite banking system which ruined the UK economy. To those of us who use the word “campaign” to refer to specific issues such as the NHS, legal aid, forest sell-off, snoopers’ charter etc., the party political use of the word “campaign” means nothing more than marketing. I would prefer it if all political parties replaced the word “campaign” with the word ‘marketing’. This foreigner has no doubt been offered a huge amount of money to market the Labour Party. He is now the ‘marketing manager’ of the Labour ‘marketing team’. Party politics is dead if parties have to employ spin doctors and marketing manager to con the British public into believing lies before they will vote in desperation to be saved from the food banks.

    • Doug Smith

      “con the British public into believing lies”

      Says it all.

      For today’s politicians authenticity is the product of carefully crafted videos.

      • treborc1

        Which says hard working many many times.

  • Doug Smith

    Never mind the policies, bring on the consultants.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Didn’t Obama vow to shut down Guantanamo five years ago?

    • treborc1

      And make all those people unemployed.

  • swatnan

    Wilson copied Kennedy; Blair copied Clinton; and now Eddie’s trying to copy Obama!
    You couldn’t make it up. Copying the way they do things in America doesn’t work in a country like Britain.We don’t do razzmatazz politics in Britain. We take things a bit more seriously and boringly. And we could do with a little less Australian influence as well.

    • treborc1

      Well I hope he’s good with Caps this will be the fastest growing employment area until the next election making caps for Ed to use.

  • Dan

    Well, I’ve been one of Labour’s harshest critics in recent weeks, but I for one think this is great news. Obama’s campaigns have been more left-wing rhetorically than anything Labour have said recently (a sad indictment of how far Labour has slid in recent years, but true all the same). The 2012 Obama campaign should really be drawn on for Labour: that campaign managed to reject the establishment consensus that cutting the deficit was necessary, that no-one would be considered “credible” unless they made huge spending cuts and clobbered the poor, and they also rejected the Blair/Clinton-esque cartoonish stereotype of the typical “aspirational” middle-class voter; they recognised even the moderately affluent were utterly disgusted at fat cats thinking they don’t have to pay any tax and big businesses who think they deserve to call the shots on everything that matters to the country and that they can hold the country to ransom whenever any government threatens them with making things a tiny bit more difficult for them. A lesson which currently has not been learnt by New Labour prats like Alan Milburn and Pat McFadden, still stuck in a 1990s timewarp, judging by their comments in recent days on how Labour has to be more “pro-business”.

  • Syzygy

    ‘“That is how we won in the US. Barack Obama articulated a vision which had, at its core, the experience of everyday people. And everyday people responded, they organised and they overcame the odds. I see the same thing happening in Britain.”
    Yes Obama was elected having articulated a vision but one which he then ditched in favour of his Wall Street backers. The reduction of politics to another smart advertising PR campaign is the last thing that the LP should be doing if it wants to overcome the scepticism of the UK public. Popular sensible policies like renationalising the railways and energy companies, restoring the N in NHS and creating decent social care, are what is required… not packaging of unsustainable reheated ordoliberalism in pink and fluffy words.

  • Dez

    Yes, a real Superstar.

    @GuidoFawkes: Did @DAlexanderMP know Axelrod’s firm was paid $15 million by ComEd to lobby for higher electricity prices? LOL

  • Theoderic Braun

    So all Labour needs is a dash of VERY expensive American political voodoo and presentational black magic in order to win the next general election? If the party REALLY believes nonsense like this God help us all.

  • Pingback: Appointing Axelrod is part arms race, part morale boost, part psychological warfare | OzHouse()

  • Dave

    Apparently his advice has been that Labour need to focus on ‘inequality’. How depressing they had to pay someone a 6 figure fee to point that out to them. What a sad comment on post Blair politics. ‘Axelrod praised the “power” of Miliband’s ideas’ – I wish I knew what they were – this week we’ve had a Labour Party political broadcast which managed to mount a vicious personal attack on Clegg and yet not mention a single Labour policy or idea.


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