As soon as Labour's election strategists decided to trump the Tories' race card with their own "tough" new immigration policy, they gave the green light for Michael Howard to go even further. In effect, the Conservatives are saying all immigrants carry disease.
As the son of Jewish immigrants, Howard should be aware of what can happen when you go down that road. He should also remember how the British tried to put controls on immigration to Israel just as Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis. Immigration is the only policy area out of 20 on which the Tories are ahead in the polls. But it would never have been an issue for voters unless Labour had helped make it one. Labour's campaign should concentrate on bigger issues, such as the economy. But that's not
what Alan "Macho Man" Milburn wants.
It's what Gordon Brown wants and as far as is concerned, if Brown wants it, it's wrong, even though the Chancellor was campaign chief for two landslide victories.
Many Labour MPs are now seriously worried about Tony Blair's decision to dump proven campaign winners such as Brown and Douglas Alexander. They see Milburn as arrogant and lightweight and were horrified at his recent attacks on Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, who at least has the brains to match his brawn. Even worse was the comeback of Alastair Campbell, who never had a strategic election planning role before: though he may be gifted in some things, strategy is an alien concept to him.
The campaign won't change many minds, but Labour should use a bit more professionalism and even stick to a few Labour principles.