ONE of United States president Barack Obama’s top campaign strategists has been recruited by Labour to play a key role in Ed Miliband’s bid for Downing Street in next year’s general election.
David Axelrod, who is credited with masterminding Mr Obama’s back-to-back presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, will join the party’s general election campaign team as a senior strategic adviser.
Nicknamed “Axe” – partly because of his name and partly due to his street-fighting tactics – his appointment was hailed by Labour as a major coup and “seriously bad news for the Conservatives”.
The news comes at a time when Mr Miliband has been under fire from sections of his own party for his campaign tactics. It was said to mark the end of several months of negotiations by Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary and chair of Labour’s general election strategy, to secure his services and those of his firm, AKPD.
Labour said he would become an integral part of its team, working closely with Mr Alexander, campaign director Spencer Livermore and senior pollster Stan Greenberg.
He will also take part in regular strategic discussions with Mr Miliband and the Labour campaign team. Mr Miliband said: “David Axelrod is known across the world for helping get President Obama into the White House in 2008 and then win re-election in 2012.
“In his work for president Obama, David helped shape a campaign that reflected his vision, focused on building an economy that works for all hard-working people and not just a privileged few.
“It’s excellent news that David has agreed to help One Nation Labour win the next election and build our campaign to change Britain, so hard-working people are better off. He will be a huge asset to our campaign as we work to show the British people how we can change our country for the better.”
Mr Axelrod is due to arrive in London next month for two days of strategy meetings with Mr Miliband, deputy leader Harriet Harman and other senior shadow cabinet members.
He will be supported by other veterans from the Obama for America campaign, including Larry Grisolano and Mike Donilon, as AKPD picks up the pace of its work with Labour from the early months of next year.
Mr Axelrod said: “I’ve had several conversations with Ed Miliband over the course of the last year in which I have been struck by the power of his ideas, the strength of his vision and the focus he brings to solving the fundamental challenge facing Britain.”
Axelrod profile: ‘Street fighter who guided Obama to top’
LABOUR’s new election strategist, David Axelrod, has been dubbed the “ultimate campaign manager” whose CV boasts masterminding the two successful US presidential campaign victories of Barack Obama.
Mr Axelrod’s most recent high-profile election intervention saw him employ a brutal advertising campaign against Mr Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the 2012 presidential election.
The Obama campaign broadcast a series of “attack” TV adverts, including one showing Mr Romney singing an off-key version of America the Beautiful.
That approach was part of a strategy that typified Mr Axelrod’s political street-fighting mentality, which he will almost certainly employ in next year’s general election campaign.
But what marks Mr Axelrod out above all else is that, arguably, no other figure has been so critical to the career of Mr Obama.
Mr Axelrod signed on when Mr Obama ran for the US Senate a decade ago, and remained the Democrat’s top political guru all the way through his elevation to the presidency in 2008 and subsequent re-election.
His key role in Labour’s election campaign will see him pitted against the Australian Lynton Crosby – the Tory campaign consultant who is known to be one of the toughest political operators.
Strikingly, Mr Axelrod’s interest in politics began in circumstances that had some parallels to those of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
He was born in Manhattan into a highly politicised Jewish family and, as a five-year-old, witnessed a rally by John F Kennedy in New York in 1960.
A journalist by profession, Mr Axelrod entered the world of Chicago politics in the 1980s as a communications director for Democrat politicians.
He later launched his own communications agency and was heavily involved in Bill Clinton’s first presidential election victory in 1992. That was when he first met Mr Obama.