David Axelrod dropped an extra ‘l’ into Ed Miliband’s surname. Easy mistake. That silly story has covered up something else that occurred to me immediately when I saw the press released photos of Axelrod in a meeting of the Labour Shadow Cabinet. Here are some:
So each one shows the Leader of Labour Party looking on in awe and admiration as the great David Axelrod holds forth. The dynamic is completely wrong. Axelrod should be supporting and looking on at the leader as he sets out the terms of how Labour is going to win. Have you ever seen a publicity photo of Barack Oboma staring adoringly at Axelrod?!
I think this betrays a well known and obvious weakness in Miliband. It’s often commented that he’s obsessed by American politics and the West Wing, and this is obvious in these photos. But their system is different to ours, and no matter how brilliant the West Wing is (and it truly is), it is a work of fiction!
It also, I think, highlights a weakness that in politics currently for the showy manipulator. Each party is doing it, the Conservatives with Lynton Crosby, the Lib Dems Ryan Coetzee and now Axelrod for Labour are the headlines, but there are others too. Every time one of these campaign organisers is announced, they are almost always from overseas where the political system is different to ours, so their insight is questionable. But worse than that, they bring a narrative of manipulation to the political debate, a sense that all you need to do is emulate Obama’s negative campaigning and ground force of activists and you’ll be able to squeak a win, or that Lynton Crosby can use his dogwhistle to help the Conservatives like he did John Howard in Australia.
Truth is, it’s not these guys that won the electorate over, it’s the candidates. Obama wowed America with his rhetoric and sense of hope in the future after a pretty bleak few years. John Howard just hit the right message at the right time for an Australia that wanted to make a mark in the world and ruthlessly exploit it’s economic advantages. The campaign managers just helped get them over the line, they did not magic up a victory. Why do the media and the political parties pretend as though they can in the UK?