Monday 16 May 2011

Why do British politicians always look to America?

Jim Murphy, Labour's shadow defence minister, is, according to The Times, off to Washington to meet with President Obama's 'senior aides' and discuss campaigning techniques. The report says that Murphy - who is reviewing the Scottish Labour Party after their terrible Scottish Parliament campaign - will be looking into the use of e-campaigning and broader campaigning techniques.

I understand why Murphy wants to go to Washington and touch the hem of the legendary Obama team; they are flush with cash, are glamorous and have managed to be seen in the UK as the font of all knowledge for modern political campaigning. How useful this trip will actually be to Murphy's task I have my doubts. There is a world of difference between US and Scottish politics and, although with their large budgets US campaigners tend to come up with new techniques and technologies, any findings are unlikely to be directly transferable.

I would like to see British politicians looking to France to learn their lessons, and from their mistakes, in fighting against a strong far right party. Perhaps then we might finally nail the BNP. Or, if I was advisng Murphy, I'd send him to Canada where a left-of-centre social democratic party, the New Democrat Party, secured a 12.4 per cent vote swing taking seats and share from a seperatist and a liberal party. Surely of more use for a review of Scottish campaigning?

This is the nature of opposition politics I am afraid. Murphy has gone for the headline that a glamour meet in Washington guarntees. When in opposition Conservatives like George Osborne, Liam Fox, William Hague used trips to Washington, California and elsewhere to grab headlines and show a pulse was still beating in the party. One of the most difficult tasks in opposition is letting the cynical hacks in Westminster and Holyrood know you are still alive and kicking and looking for new ideas. This is what Murphy has attempted to achieve and he has been successful so good on him.  

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