Labour’s embrace of David Axelrod speaks of the challenge involved in making its leader electable

Mr Obama was a much more saleable proposition

Share

So far as can be discerned, David Axelrod, the Labour Party’s new campaign adviser, is well suited to the task. He is an obviously highly intelligent political obsessive who seems to have done an excellent job for Barack Obama, most notably in seeing off Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and in securing a tricky re-election for the President in 2012.

He appears to possess the calm demeanour and sense of humour that will be needed as tensions mount in the run-up to next year’s general election. Provided some of the powerful personalities at the top of Labour can bring themselves to work together in the common good – socialism in action, one might say – Mr Axelrod will prove a fine asset, and worth every penny of his coyly described “six-figure salary”. Mobilising the potential of the web is said to be Mr Axelrod’s speciality; we look forward to witnessing the promised display of digital sorcery.

As with his counterparts in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, the appointment does, however, speak to a certain lack of self-confidence, and for similar reasons. For Labour and the Tories, these moves are born of a frustration that neither party seems able to break through to the magic 40 per cent support level, either in the polls or real elections, and has been unable to do so for some time. What would have been a disappointing vote share in the era of Wilson and Heath, and would be acceptable to Thatcher or Blair, is now unattainable for their successors. At or above 40 per cent Ed Miliband or David Cameron could be confident of governing with a stable parliamentary majority, not having to faff around with the Liberal Democrats, and claim some simulacrum of popular support.

For a decade now, nothing has seemed able to convince the British electorate to fall back in love with the two main parties. Both are viewed as uniformly corrupt, broadly incompetent in economic management, out of touch and lacking in conviction. Hence the global search for a magical solution from the new cadre of globe-trotting political alchemists.

In that context, the Labour Party should not expect too much of its new guru. It will be difficult to persuade the British public that Ed Miliband isn’t a nerdy career politician who came from a relatively fortunate background straight into politics and has had few setbacks in his life – because it is true. That Ed Balls was at the scene when the British economy crashed (or “touched bumpers”, in Mr Balls’s favoured euphemism) is also undeniable. That Labour MPs have been done for fiddling expenses is also painfully obvious. Mr Obama was a much more saleable proposition than today’s only semi-rehabilitated Labour Party. If it is any consolation for them, they should notice that the Tory Merlin, Lynton Crosby, has found the British public resistant to his spells.

Importing political techniques and experts to the UK is nothing new, though there seems to be more of it nowadays. Yet there have been no examples of them delivering transformative change. That is down much more to policies and leadership. Mr Axelrod should tell his new employers as much.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would halt the charitable status enjoyed by private schools

Rosie Millard
 

Nick’s accident has been an education for my lexicon

Rebecca Armstrong
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links