Perry attacks "Romney's Remedy"

Texas Governor on the offensive in dramatic new video invites charges of desperation.

Rick Perry has gone on the attack ahead of tonight's sixth GOP primary debate in New Hampshire. In an attempt to recover his status as frontrunner in the race to be the Republican's 2012 presidential nominee, the Texas Governor has released a controversial new video, only to be broadcast online, designed to cast doubt over Mitt Romney's conservative credentials.

The sixty second film -- which runs like a trailer for a Hollywood action blockbuster, replete with dramatic score -- features an image of President Obama facing a mirror that frames Romney's reflection and a clip of Romney confessing that there are "lots of good reasons" not to elect him. It also claims Romney's Massachusetts healthcare legislation ("Romneycare") cost $8bn to implement and "killed" 18,000 jobs. It ends with the tag, "Romney: Change you can believe in?" -- an appropriation of the slogan Obama used, successfully, in 2008.

However, Perry's decision to go on the offensive could backfire. Since he entered the field in August, his poll ratings have slumped: the most recent survey of Republican voters, published last week by Zogby, placed him third, behind Romney and Herman Cain, with just 12 per cent support -- and this latest move may serve to confirm the impression that his campaign peaked too early following an initial surge. Romney's task tonight is to articulate a simple message in direct, old-fashion terms. Desperation is not a good look.

 

 

James Maxwell is a Scottish political journalist. He is based between Scotland and London.

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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.