Gordon Brown has been urged today by a former aide to ditch his class-based election strategy, which was dismissed as ‘tawdry, desperate and useless’. No kidding.
The Conservatives’ lead the polls, but that lead has narrowed to eight percentage points. That lead is likely to narrow further, but it isn’t helped by Labour’s ham-fisted campaigning efforts that attack David Cameron on the basis of privilege and class and his Eton background. If he speaks of policy issues that hurt the poor and serve the rich that is different.
You don’t need to read the research that came out earlier this week or read the comments on PR Week today of Labour strategist Paul Richards to know that the class based strategy isn’t going to win back Labour voters.
The class attack has been as equally misguided as Labour’s efforts to ride the X-Factor band wagon with its campaign depicting Cameron and Osborne as the talentless Jedward twins with the tagline “You won’t be laughing if they win”. I’ll be rolling around the floor, no doubt about it.
Funny as it was for five seconds the tone and everything about it was wrong. While the ridiculously popular and banal X-Factor has a gold plated place in popular culture reducing politics to that level in these serious times is disappointing.
These campaign ideas have their roots in some of the poorest of New Labour thinking and both are mistakes as it strikes me that what underlies them is a lack of self belief in what Labour Party and the Labour government stands for (maybe they should re-watch this) and what it has and can still achieve. It is the kind of thing that allowed Derek Draper to return and gave us Smeargate (thanks Derek).
Here’s the thing: the UK is having a tough economic time, but within the government it has on its side a wealth of collective experience in running Britain, and no matter what some say, that is still Labour’s strongest asset.
You only had to listen to Osborne yesterday on Radio 4’s Today programme stumble his way through an interview where he was asked what he would be doing as Chancellor to tackle the budget deficit. It was another reminder that he doesn’t know. He gave no hint that he knows what’s to be done anymore than David Cameron gives any indication that he has more to offer than a penchant for expensive suits and a PR pro’s smile.
Look at it this way: I’m betting that if the majority of people were given the chance to replace the experienced management team in the company/organisation for which they worked in this climate with an untried and inexperienced chief executive officer and a chief finance officer they would reject it.
You don’t need to depict Cameron and Osborne as the Jedward twins and have them speedily throw that back at you in the same manner with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling depicted as “Deadwood”.
And you don’t need to attack the school that Cameron went to and have the Tories throw the class attack back in Labour’s face as it did yesterday with an ad campaign claiming that Labour’s real class enemy is its own voters who will be hit by the rise in National Insurance (“Now we know the real victims of Gordon Brown’s class war”).
Return of serve is all they appear to have. Best not to serve it up in the first place.