5 things we learned from David Axelrod’s election campaign intervention

18th April, 2015 3:02 pm

David Axelrod was hired to advise Ed Miliband exactly a year ago, but there has been considerable criticism of the former Obama adviser (from both inside as well as outisde the party) for his apparent lack of time spent in the UK working on the campaign. At a reported cost of £300,000 (for a party that doesn’t have a great deal of money) slightly more was expected. But today there’s an interview with Axelrod in the Guardian – his first appearance in the UK press since his last Guardian interview two months ago – so what can we learn from his comments today?

axelrod 2014-04-18 09-30-25

1. Axelrod will be in the UK for the last two weeks of the campaign – Axelrod is clearly aware of the criticism his lack of UK appearances has received (he hit out at that criticism in February) – but says he’s in constant constant with Labour staffers (he’s believed to have a good relationship with Miliband aide Greg Beales), has been in the UK four times in the past year (which is more than widely reported, but still not much) and will be in the UK for the final dozen days of the campaign, arriving on April 26th.

2. Axelrod appears to be the man behind the ‘happy warrior’ strategy – In recent weeks we’ve been hearing Miliband described as the “happy warrior”, a phrase that’s far more American than British. It looks from the way Axelrod talks about Miliband like he’s the man behind the phrase, especially when he says things like “His resilience has become a great story in itself. People have counted him out and counted him out, particularly the media, but he believes in what he is doing”.

3. There’s some Miliband/Hilary crossover (Hiliband?) – Axelrod’s framing of the campaign is a choice between two different kinds of Britain – one where those at the top succeed and one where the nation succeeds because working people are better off. That’s pretty similar to Miliband’s own framing – unsurprisingly. But it’s also similar to the language Hilary Clinton used to launch her presidential campaign. That’s interesting, because unlike many Obama staffers, Axelrod isn’t working on Clinton’s campaign – although he has had a lot to say about her…

4. Axelrod doesn’t rate the Tory campaign (part-run by fellow Obama veteran Jim Messina) – He accuses the Tories of “a kind of cocksuredness predicated on the belief they could caricature Miliband and caricature the Labour party”, and accuses Cameron of uttering “blandishments”. Now these are fairly standard criticisms of an opponent – but he’s also attacked the Tory campaign more broadly for a failure of focus, lurching from one issue/attack to another, saying “At the beginning it was ‘Labour is profligate’. That did not work. Then it was a personal attack on Miliband and that did not work. The next attack was the £3,000 tax increase and then that proved not to be true. Now they have gone full circle and are making 11th-hour promises they have no way of funding since their budgets calls for the most extraordinary austerity”. That’s a particularly interesting critique, considering one of the Tories key advisers is Jim Messina (not that we’ve heard much of him lately).

5. Axelrod expects the Tories to spend the final days of the campaign playing the politics of fear

So Axelrod will only be in the country for the finald ays of the campaign, but what he’s expecting when he arrives is for the Tories to ramp up the politics of fear, saying “Fear is always the last refuge of a panicky campaign. As we get closer to the election, we will hear a lot of that”. Of course, to those of us who have to listen to the Tory campaign everyday, it sounds like they’re doing a lot of that already.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Jack

    Also blame the advisor who advised the advisor.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Axelrod? £300,000 well spent? Yes? No? Draw your own conclusions. Eeek.

    • treborc1


  • Harry Barnes

    By post and email Labour Party members have essentially received thinly disquised appeals for cash (to pay off Axelrod’s £30,000?). Why (at least in addition) have they not for a long period been sent material on the Labour policies which they need to push? From my experiences of the East Midland’s Region of the Labour Party (and from what I can pick up about the work of other Labour Regions) they have been even worse than the central campaign team. And way when we pushed around to find Ed’s speech were they presented in separated single sentences? They could not properly be read or scanned. With 19 days to go they can have my regularly repeated advice for free.

    • Redshift1

      What exactly is your criticism of the East Midlands regional office? I doubt they have spent £300,000 on anything.

      • Harry Barnes

        When they have emailed Labour Party members for money for electoral purposes, they have never supplied any information on Labour policies nor on any campaigning arrangements. When they held the Regional launch of Labour’s pre-manifesto “Changing Britain Together” (as the last Region to do so) I had to go into extra-ordinary efforts to find out the arrangments and get myself a place. It was impossible to get to them by phone nor to get replies via their web-site. I was only able to get a place by contacting the office of the the Region’s Labour MEP. When I got there I found that those I talked to were mainly from the local area (Nottingham) and had been rung up to see if they wanted to attend. They included non Labour Party members. I don’t object to that, but why had they not circulated Labour Party members nor at least CLPs to send representatives? I found out later that a long term respresenative on the National Policy Forum from the Region never found out about the meeting, although the pre-manifesto was drawn from the Forum’s reports. It seems that they had only done a limited phone around to get some bums on seats. It was a pretend event. Then I responded to an email from the Region when they sort a range of help. As I am disabled and no use any lionger for door knocking type activities, I offered help on computer work to the specific iperson I was asked to contact. When I received no reply, I emailed the Regional Organiser and got no answer. I then tried phoning, but again without any success. So I emailed the chair of the Region, who said she would contact the appropriate people for me. But nothing ever emerged. She may have done what she promised, but they never came back to me. So I cut my losses and just do what I can locally, including some trade union work for the coming May Day in Chesterfied. As the local Political Education Officer, I help where I can.

  • Leo McKinstry

    £300,000 for this? I suppose that is what the Labour Leader means by his much trumpeted new devotion to value for money. But seriously, what on earth is that David Axelrod is supposed to be bringing to the Labour campaign, beyond some boilerplate progressive banalities that any staffer or Labour activist could have devised. In his Guardian interview he shows absolutely no awareness of the SNP insurgency. Indeed, the Scottish question, of which Mr Axelrod is so blissfully unaware, now threatens to derail the entire Labour campaign, since wavering English voters are profoundly unhappy at the idea of being governed through a Caledonian socialist pact.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      This just proves, underlines and nails any doubt, that Labour can’t even look after their own money, I dread what they’ll do with my taxed income. Why o Why?

  • Sunny Jim

    Today’s Opinium is the first time i’ve felt this might be slipping away.

    I don’t know what’s worse: 5 more years of Cameron or the huge hole in my betfair balance.

  • Jack

    Maybe Iain McNicol could comment on this:

    Labour donation pages ask for quite a lot of information about donors and say that this is a requirement under the law. According to The Electoral Commission this is not the case, as contributions of less than £500, which
    I’m guessing are in the majority, are not classed as ‘donations’.

    Millions of people now have PayPal accounts and as an option they could contribute by simply clicking without having to go through a rigmarole.

  • swatnan

    Not value for money; maybe he should be on payment by results, and a sliding scale over

  • Kathryn Rose

    In fairness, he’d be daft to publicise what he has been doing as that would help the tories to work against him; also, his job isn’t to be visible or look good, his job is to make Labour visible and make Labour look good. I don’t know if he helped Ed to come across so well in the TV debates, or how he’s influenced the pragmatic positivity strategy, but Labour is looking stronger this year than last and more credible.

  • Brian Barder

    The best remembered of several “Happy Warriors” is surely the late Hubert Humphrey, former Democratic Senator and Vice-President, beaten to the White House by Nixon.

    ” Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he

    That every man in arms should wish to be?

    —It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought

    Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought

    Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:

    Whose high endeavours are an inward light

    That makes the path before him always bright;

    Who, with a natural instinct to discern

    What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;

    Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,

    But makes his moral being his prime care…”
    Not a bad description of Ed Miliband?


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends