LONDON – Setting up an intriguing election battle, Britain’s opposition Labor Party announced Friday that it had hired President Barack Obama’s chief campaign adviser to help the party return to power next year over the ruling Conservatives.
The decision to recruit David Axelrod means that the 2015 British election will pit two of Obama’s strategists against each other. Working for the Conservatives is Jim Messina, who, like Axelrod, toiled on both of Obama’s presidential campaigns and who served as his deputy White House chief of staff during his first term.
“In the United States, he showed that a campaign guided by progressive values, mobilizing grass-roots supporters and funded by small donations could win,” Douglas Alexander, Labor’s election coordinator, said in a statement on Axelrod’s hiring.
The Labor Party, which governed for 13 years before being ousted by the Tories in 2010, has consistently been ahead in the polls in recent months. But in a boost for the Conservatives, the British economy is rebounding more strongly from recession than originally expected. Voters also routinely rate David Cameron, the polished, articulate prime minister, more favorably than they do Labor leader Ed Miliband, who strikes many Britons as too inexperienced and off-puttingly nerdy.
That two Democratic operatives would be recruited by opposing parties in Britain, one of which uses the word “conservative” in its name, is not particularly strange. The Tories are not precise analogues of Republicans in the United States; the British political spectrum skews further to the left than the American one.