LONDON – Setting up an intriguing election battle, Britain’s opposition
The decision to recruit
"David is used to tough fights, and he is going to be a huge asset to our campaign," Douglas Alexander, Labor's election coordinator, said in a statement on Axelrod's hiring. "In the United States, he showed that a campaign guided by progressive values, mobilizing grassroots supporters and funded by small donations could win."
The Labor Party, which governed for 13 years before being ousted by the
Miliband is trying to improve his image by promoting himself as a vocal champion of the squeezed middle class and as a critic of Britain's widening income gap. In a video message to the Labor faithful, Axelrod said he emphasized those themes for Obama as his chief campaign advisor in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.
"The eyes of the world will be on Britain in 2015 … because of the contest between ideas about what a healthy economy looks like in the 21st century," Axelrod said. "Ed Miliband understands that a healthy economy is one where hard-working people are rewarded for their work, where you can stay ahead of those cost-of-living pressures, where you can plan for your futures and hope for your children."
The British media reported that Axelrod – whom the Labor Party website briefly identified as "David Alexrod" before correcting the error – would participate in regular strategy meetings with Labor officials and earn a six-figure sum for his pains.
Trying to outfox him will be Messina, whom Cameron hired last summer. Axelrod's former Obama campaign teammate is known for his data-crunching and social-media campaign expertise.
That two Democratic operatives would be recruited by opposing parties in Britain, one of which uses the word "conservative" in its name, is not particularly strange. The Tories are not precise analogues of Republicans in the United States; the British political spectrum skews further to the left than the American one, meaning that the Conservatives overlap with Democrats on some issues. For example, Cameron's government recently steered legislation authorizing same-sex marriage through Parliament.
Also, political strategists have flitted back and forth across the Atlantic before.