Following the revelations from leaked RNC documentation earlier this month that Republicans were planning to sell access to David Cameron to raise funds, I can’t help but wonder if recent political developments in the UK have a touch of the Karl Rove “magic” about them. Maybe it’s reciprocation? Who knows?
Certainly the Tories attempts to make the focus of the story the Unite union’s funding of the Labour Party has all the classic hall marks of a classic Rove campaign.
Take your own candidate/party’s most high profile weakness:For example, when Bush was running against Kerry as a “war president”, Bush’s appalling record of service contrasted terribly with Kerry’s well earned decorations.
For the Tories, for quite some time, one of their weakest flanks has been Lord Ashcroft. Not only that he was a non-dom, not only that he took the best part of a decade to declare that fact, not only that as a donor he is also a high ranking official in the Tory party but also the fact that he has accompanied William Hague on foreign policy trips where his interests were far from clear.
Use exactly this area to attack your opponents: The Tories started with Lord Paul a fellow non-dom and Labour donor. It didn’t get much traction though as it’s quite clear that Lord Paul doesn’t have anything like the sway within Labour that Ashcroft does with the Tories.
So they moved on to Charlie Whelan and Unite. Whelan is a pretty perfect candidate. He’s not known for his discretion, he seems to relish a certain public profile and a sense of his own importance that feeds into the Tory narrative. He also used to work for Gordon Brown, and crucially, currently works for a Union currently threatening a high profile strike. Whelan isn’t the head of the organisation. Attacking Whelan ties the whole story quite neatly to GB so he’s been the principle target of the Tory vitriol.
This classic piece of Rovian campaigning is having the desired effect in some ways. It isn’t designed to simply damage the Labour Party with the classic old Tory refrain of “Union rampage” or to link the Labour Party closely with the potential industrial action – though these are a bonus issue.
No, the main reason this move is so insidious, is that it is an attempt to reinforce public opinion that “they’re all the same” which always works better when you are actually the party behaving the worst. It’s classic Rove tactics, and as Labour supporters we shouldn’t let it work.
We need to fight this smear, not by bowing to it and giving it credence – that never works, look at poor John Kerry – but by taking it on and fighting with it. Labour is rightly and should remain proud of our union links, and we should never let the politics of Rove win.
Tags: David Cameron, electoral strategy, Karl Rove, Lord Ashcroft, Republicans, Unite