Monday, 19 May 2008

Clintonesque tactics in Crewe

As a Labour supporter for the best part of 35 years, the party's tactics in the Crewe by-election make me want to weep. Rather than debate their Conservative opponent on the issues, local activists have taken to following him around dressed in top hat and tails, in a crude attempt to mock his class background. The trouble is, although Tory hopeful Edward Timpson is a scion of the famous shoe-shop owning family, he doesn't fit the stereotype into which Labour are trying to force him: his parents fostered more than 80 children and he himself is a family lawyer specialising in the welfare of vulnerable children.

Even worse than this brainless class warfare has been Labour's attempt to play 'dog-whistle' politics with the issues of crime and immigration. According to John Harris, campaigners have been distributing a spoof 'Tory candidate application form'. Sample questions: 'Do you live in a big mansion house?' 'Have you and your Tory mates on the council been soft on yobs and failed to make our streets safer?' and (it gets worse, much worse) 'Do you oppose making foreign nationals carry an ID card?'

Some time back I bemoaned the fact that Gordon Brown was planning to hire Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's inept and discredited election strategist. Could the Crewe campaign be the first sign of Penn's impact on Labour thinking? After all, the parallels with the Clinton campaign are remarkable: an attempt to caricature an opponent in crude class terms rather than engage him on the issues, a willingness to exploit people's worst fears rather than appeal to their better instincts, and even (given that the Labour candidate is the daughter of the recently deceased incumbent) a Clintonesque assumption that an office should be passed on to another family member as of right.

Another sign, if any were needed, that Labour needs a complete change of strategy - and leadership - if it's to avoid being trounced by the Cameronians at the next election. Come on, David Miliband, what are you waiting for?


Luke Akehurst said...

Pip pip, old bean. Why not come over to Moyra's estate tomorrow morning and lend a hand. I'm sure you'll feel much better after a good cross country ride, some leafleting and a spot of game shooting afterwards.

The Plump said...

They don't get it do they? The comment is nearly as depressing as the campaign.