Election 2010 Lookahead: Wednesday 5 May

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With one day to go, here is what is happening on the campaign trail:

Labour

Gordon Brown will visit 13 constituencies on the eve of the election, covering London, north Wales, the north-west and Yorkshire, before heading up to his home seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, where he will remain on polling day.

 

Conservatives

David Cameron will continue his 24-hour campaign tour of the UK, meeting people working night shifts and early mornings, such as bakers and florists. Earlier today he was at Darwen (12.45am), Wakefield (3.15am) and Grimsby (5.30am), and will later visit Calverton (9.15am), Dudley (11.45am) and Montgomeryshire (2.30pm), before finally addressing a campaign rally in Bristol (6pm).

 

Liberal Democrats

Happy birthday, Nick Clegg -- who was elected to parliament this day five years ago. He continues his series of early-morning press conferences at the Work Foundation in London (7.30am). He will then attend a public rally at Western Lawns on King Edward's Parade in Eastbourne with the local Lib Dem candidate, Stephen Lloyd (11am), before heading north to attend a Q&A with students at the University of Durham (Pemberton Building, Palace Green, 4pm). He will round off the day with an election rally at Barker's Pool in Sheffield (6.45pm).

 

Other parties

The Scottish National Party leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, will rally the troops at SNP headquarters in Edinburgh (10am). The SNP is hoping to win 20 seats in the House of Commons this year.

 

The media

BBC2's The Daily Politics: 2010 Election Debates will feature the deputy Labour Party leader and House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, the Conservative shadow Commons leader, George Young, the Liberal Democrat equality spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, and the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price in "The Trust in Politics Debate" (2.15pm). Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn will be asking the questions.

 

Away from the campaign

Nominations for the five-year post of professor of poetry at Oxford University (annual salary: £6,901) close today. It's an election battle that surely makes the other pale into insignificance. Last year the process was disrupted when one of the nominees, Derek Walcott, pulled out over allegations of sexual harassment, followed by Ruth Padel, who admitted she had told the press about the allegations. Some of those hoping to make it this time are Geoffrey Hill, Paula Claire, Sean Haldane and Roger Lewis.

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What Donald Trump could learn from Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement.

“No one remembers who came in second.” That wisdom, frequently dispensed by the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, came back to haunt him this week. Trump’s loss in the Iowa Republican caucuses to the Texas senator Ted Cruz, barely beating Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for second place, was the first crack in a campaign that has defied all expectations.

It has been a campaign built on Trump’s celebrity. Over the past eight months, his broad name recognition, larger-than-life personality and media savvy have produced a theatrical candidacy that has transfixed even those he repels. The question now is whether that celebrity will be enough – whether a man so obsessed with being “Number One” can bounce back from defeat.

Iowa isn’t everything, after all. It didn’t back the eventual Republican nominee in 2008 or 2012. Nor, for that matter, in 1980, when another “celebrity” candidate was in the mix. That was the year Iowa picked George H W Bush over Ronald Reagan – the former actor whom seasoned journalists dismissed as much for his right-wing views as for his “B-movie” repertoire. But Reagan regrouped, romped to victory in the New Hampshire primary and rode a wave of popular support all the way to the White House.

Trump might hope to replicate that success and has made a point of pushing the Reagan analogy more generally. Yet it is a comparison that exposes Trump’s weaknesses and his strengths.

Both men were once Democrats who came later in life to the Republican Party, projecting toughness, certainty and unabashed patriotism. Trump has even adopted Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to “make America great again”. Like Reagan, he has shown he can appeal to evangelicals despite question marks over his religious conviction and divorces. In his ability to deflect criticism, too, Trump has shown himself as adept as Reagan – if by defiance rather than by charm – and redefined what it means to be “Teflon” in the age of Twitter.

That defiance, however, points to a huge difference in tone between Reagan’s candidacy and Trump’s. Reagan’s vision was a positive, optimistic one, even as he castigated “big government” and the perceived decline of US power. Reagan’s America was meant to be “a city upon a hill” offering a shining example of liberty to the world – in rhetoric at least. Trump’s vision is of an America closed off from the world. His rhetoric invokes fear as often as it does freedom.

On a personal level, Reagan avoided the vituperative attacks that have been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign, even as he took on the then“establishment” of the Republican Party – a moderate, urban, east coast elite. In his first run for the nomination, in 1976, Reagan even challenged an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, and came close to defeating him. But he mounted the challenge on policy grounds, advocating the so-called “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump, as the TV debates between the Republican presidential candidates made clear, does not subscribe to the same precept.

More importantly, Reagan in 1976 and 1980 was the leader of a resurgent conservative movement, with deep wells of political experience. He had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s, waging a campaign to root out communist infiltrators. He had gone on to work for General Electric in the 1950s as a TV pitchman and after-dinner speaker, honing a business message that resonated beyond the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In 1964 he grabbed headlines with a televised speech on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater – a bright spot in Goldwater’s otherwise ignominious campaign. Two years later he was elected governor of California – serving for eight years as chief executive of the nation’s most populous state. He built a conservative record on welfare reform, law and order, and business regulation that he pushed on to the federal agenda when he ran for president.

All this is to say that Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. By contrast, Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement – which enhanced his “outsider” status, perhaps, but not his ground game. So far, he has run on opportunism, tapping in to popular frustration, channelled through a media megaphone.

In Iowa, this wasn’t enough. To win the nomination he will have to do much more to build his organisation. He will be hoping that in the primaries to come, voters do remember who came in second. 

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war