Obama strategist David Axelrod to advise British Labour

Axelrod likely to reinforce, not radically change, party's existing strategy for next year's election

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 9:01pm


Barack Obama's most influential adviser during two presidential victories has been hired to advise the British Labour Party on its 2015 election campaign.

David Axelrod has been given the title of senior strategic adviser and the American said Labour's political and economic analysis was similar to the central themes deployed in Obama's successful re-election campaign. Leader Ed Miliband will be focusing squarely on inequality and the disparity between family finances and economic growth.

The political guru said that he had signed up "because I have had some long conversations with Ed Miliband over the course of the past year and it was less about politics, and more about this issue of how in the 21st century you create healthy economies in which opportunity is broadly available, and people can stay ahead of the cost of living".

His arrival on the British scene will pit him against the Australian Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign consultant, who is one of the toughest campaign operators. But he will not be as hands-on as his rival. He will first visit the UK in May, and Labour's overall campaign structure, the subject of recent leaks and rivalries, remains unchanged.

It also, more intriguingly, pits him against a former Obama colleague, Jim Messina, who has been hired by David Cameron. Axelrod was reluctant to discuss Messina, except to promise he had the capacity to surprise.

The deal was finalised last week by Douglas Alexander, the Labour election co-ordinator, and involved what is being described as a sixfigure sum to pay for the services of Axelrod and the firm, AKPD, until the general election in May next year.

Axelrod was integral not just to Obama's two presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, but also to Obama's election as a senator in 2004.

He comes at a time when Labour still holds a consistent poll lead, but there is an expectation that the lead will narrow as the economy improves and wages start to rise faster than prices.

Axelrod said: "Miliband 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.

"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."

The similarity of argument suggests that Axelrod's arrival will reinforce Labour's existing strategy, rather than change it. He also hinted that he was willing to attack the Tories as the party of the elite in the same way as he unbalanced Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.