David Axelrod is back in the US after around a week in the UK in the final run up to the general election. Questions have been raised about his level of involvement (especially considering the rumoured £300,000 cost of hiring him). In an “exit interview” with the US site Politico, Axelrod said that his role was “Consulting on the phone, mainly consulting on message”, and said that he’d been in the UK around half a dozen times.
Axelrod highlighted the relatively short length of the campaign compared to America (it doesn’t feel short for the rest of us David) and the relative lack of advertising as the key difference between US and UK campaigns.
But perhaps the most interesting section is when he talks about the British media:
POLITICO: But what about the press? You say it has disproportionate power here. Do you think Britain’s conservative print media is more powerful than Fox News?
DA: Yeah, I do. I do think the parties approach media as partisan players. So you see parties disseminating messages through the print media in a way that is unusual.
(POLITICO note: Parties get around the restrictions on advertising on TV by launching a new poster every week or so. TV crews come out, film a party bigwig giving a speech in front of the poster and the result is a cheap, cheerful ad in the guise of news reporting and since it’s the norm, it is a highly effective way to get your message disseminated.)
DA: Fox is certainly very conservative, skews to the Republican side, but there isn’t a kind of lockstep between them and the Republicans. Fox tries to drive the Republican agenda more than reflecting it.
Here there are relationships between the parties and media outlets that are deeper so you see a lot of themes being previewed in the media in a way that you don’t see in the states.
POLITICO: Did you know what you were getting into?
DA: We discussed this when I signed on … I’ve worked in aggressive media environments before but not this partisan.
The rest of the interview – which is well worth a read – can be found here.