David Axelrod’s alliance with Ed Miliband is the perfect match of message and messenger. Labour gains a comms guru with soundbite skill and strategic insight whilst Axelrod has the chance to work once again for a candidate who embodies his own political beliefs.
Because Axelrod was in many ways the radical of Obama’s inner circle. He was the cause of much of the heartburn amongst hedgefund managers with his “Main Street, not just Wall Street” messaging. The appointment is a clear signal of Ed Miliband’s intent to double down on the “cost-of-living-crisis” message and of the importance of themes like “building the economy from the middle out” – words spoken as often by Miliband’s consigliere Stewart Wood as Axelrod himself.
But in a broader sense, it gives us a clearer idea of Labour strategy: a big offer with a strong, clear message for more then just middle class Labour loyalists and Lib Dem converts. Axelrod himself well understands the importance of raising turnout amongst blue collar voters to ensure success in key battlegrounds. And he knows the importance of ensuring the seamless integration of messaging, policy and organisation to deliver the required win number of votes in each battleground seat.
This is a clarity of objective that has been somewhat lost amidst the recent tumults besetting Labour’s high command. In this, he reflects Miliband’s own desire for a clear strategy to deliver a big election campaign complete with radical manifesto, ambitious target seat list and embrace of both new tactics and new personnel.
For Labour, in contrast to the Tories’ one big name Jim Messina hire, has developed a network of Obama veterans. From Matthew McGregor in the digital team to Axelrod’s own deputy Stephanie Cutter and her work last Christmas with the party. Combined with the recent confirmation of Obama mentor Arnie Graf’s imminent return, Labour’s efforts to organise for 2015 have taken a big step forward. For as the Fabian Society has detailed, Labour is setting the pace in integrating Obama best practice into its operations.
The party has been in discussions with Obama analytics chief and Axelrod ally Dan Wagner over the last year about what it would take to bring his cutting-edge voter targeting techniques to British voters. Such a move would be further proof of Miliband’s commitment to a truly world class campaign team.
David Axelrod embodies strategic brilliance and daring, radical politics. His appointment today will give Labour campaigners hope that the party may yet embrace the kind of big movement politics that would win Miliband a majority.