Labour insiders have confessed that they are “confused and worried” about where the party’s message is going after last week’s PEB and poster. “We’re all over the place” says one, adding “our messaging is not working”. Staffers are questioning why the party are spending over £300,000 on Axelrod when such terrible ideas can be signed off. “None of this adds up.” And where was the yank campaigning genius when it was all going wrong? Finishing writing a book. Axelrod’s arrival in the UK is imminent for a two day briefing on British politics. Something tellingly required if you are from Chicago, compared to, say, Australia. Only the Labour Party could end up paying for the pleasure of teaching their own guru rather than the other way round.
The finger of blame for last week’s clusterf**k is being pointed at Labour’s election coordinator Douglas Alexander for his stubborn refusal to “take the fight to UKIP”, instead focussing on the LibDems. Guido hears a row has broken out with attack dog Michael Dugher, who wants to train Labour’s fire on the party with 29% in the EU polls rather than the one on 9%. Dugher, speaking with unmelted butter in his mouth, tells Guido “we are beautifully aligned”.
Meanwhile, as revealed in yesterday’s Sun, Alexander’s enemies are wondering out loud why he got the top election job after losing two campaigns in Scotland, coordinating Labour’s loss in 2010 and then running David Miliband’s doomed leadership campaign. “Presumably he must have won his seat selection vote once” whispers a catty colleague.
As if by magic, Alexander was booked into yesterday’s Sunday Politics, where he was pummelled with a blunt instrument. Not only did he try to suggest that claims the Tories deliberately targeted disabled people were “factual” but also having a naked Nick Clegg eaten by a giant cat is not negative campaigning. His defence of the VAT poster fell apart pretty quickly too:
Alexander crumbled at the suggestion the VAT hike really has added £450 a year to average shopping basket. For that to be true the average family would have to be spending £21,600 a year on items that are 20% VATable. However average take home pay is less than £20,000 and an average family spends a large percentage of their income on zero rated food, travel, housing or low rated energy. It is inconceivable, even with welfare top ups, that an “average” family could spend £21,600 on 20% VATable goods. When Alexander was presented with this yesterday he moved the goalposts, suggesting that the cost would be over the course of the last Parliament. Which is not what his colleagues were saying:
You could forgive Axelrod for getting straight back on the plane and never coming back.
UPDATE: An sharp eared reader points out that at 3.19 in the above video Dougie himself says the £450 refers to a year before later attempting to say that it was “not an annualised figure”. Eek.