General Election 2015: Three things we learned about Ed Miliband from his Obama strategist David Axelrod in his interview with the Guardian

Lynsey Barber
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Miliband's campaign strategist David Axelrod gave an interview (Source: Getty)

The man who helped get Obama elected and invented what’s probably the most famous political slogan of our times - “Yes We Can” - is on the campaign trail (sort of) with Ed Miliband as the Labour leader’s hot-shot election strategist.

Miliband hired the political heavyweight David Axelrod as an adviser in a bid to win May’s General Election (79 days and counting) and is hoping he can bring some of his Obama magic to the Labour election campaign.

Axelrod, a US spin doctor-type, has given an interview in which he spills the beans - or as many beans as politicos like him are willing to spill - on his work for Labour.

Here are three things we learned about the Labour leader and potential next Prime Minister.

1. He doesn't need a slogan

Axelrod was asked to describe the Labour leader’s message in six words, in a similar fashion to political rival (and Axelrod's actual BFF) Tory strategist Jim Messina, who said “Cameron is fixing Britain, creating jobs”.

Axelrod had this to say in the interview with the Guardian:

“The promise of fixing Britain and creating jobs is that it says nothing about raising wages or economic security. That’s what’s fundamentally missing. If you are willing to proliferate zero-hour contracts and encourage policies that undercut wages you may claim that you’re creating jobs but you are also creating jobs that don’t support families. The question is do you have economic policies that are going to promote living wages, put people who are working hard in a position to support their families? Are you making education and training accessible to young people or are you going to make it so costly they are burdened with debt when they leave? The Tories just don’t look at the British economy through the lens of everyday people. They don’t have a kitchen table philosophy of economics and that’s why the recovery hasn’t reached kitchen tables around Britain.”

That’s 145 words.

Not quite as catchy a campaign slogan as “Yes We Can”.

2. He's not awkward

Ed's totally not awkward.

Despite the mounting evidence Miliband is not so great in front of the camera, putting bacon-related incidents aside, Axelrod told the Guardian: “My experience with Ed is that he’s someone very comfortable in his own skin. I think he knows why he’s in politics and has a clear idea of public service.”

He does admit that Miliband and anyone else compared to Obama, would be unappealing, for him anyway. “I had been spoiled. The thought of starting over with someone new – and almost certainly somebody who would fall short of Obama – was unappealing,” he says in his new book.

“I think Obama’s a once-in-a-lifetime candidate. I can’t think of another person who I would put in his category in my experience of consulting. So I wouldn’t put that burden on Ed or anyone,” he said in the interview.

3. His strategist doesn't need to be in the same country

Is Axelrod dialling it in?

He and Labour have faced criticism for not being present in a "boots on the ground" kind of way in the run-up to the election. He does little to put this to rest. Axelrod is himself courting the media with the release of his new book "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics" which has just been released at the most important time in Miliband's election campaign.

Addressing the question of how many times he's been to the UK since last April, he said: “I’ve been there for visits in the last couple of months, I’ll be going back. I’m a little tied up now, but this was an understanding I had with Ed. I’ve had emails today on several issues, my colleagues had calls with them this morning. This was the arrangement. I think it’s less about me being there as a showpiece than about what strategic insights I can offer.”

Whether this is good enough remains to be seen.

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