The Tories’ tartan scare was made in America by Jim Messina

by Atul Hatwal

The Tories’ tartan scare is the defining political gambit of this campaign.

Labour advisers see Lynton Crosby’s handiwork. But Crosby is not the only big name consultant, calling the shots in their campaign.

Sitting along-side Crosby, at the top table is Jim Messina, the man who masterminded President Obama’s re-election and will run Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.

Crosby is a convenient lightning rod for Labour discontent but Messina has had a critical role in framing their strategy.

Unlike the absent David Axelrod, Labour’s own big US name hire, Messina has been a constant presence in the Tory campaign, in person and on the phone.

On Thursday he was in Conservative HQ finalising plans for the fortnight to polling day and giving the Tory campaign team a pep talk on the floor of the war room.

A sign of his status is that he operates outside of the strict media rules that govern all other consultants and advisers. Lynton Crosby’s code of omerta does not apply to Jim Messina who tweets freely about his activities.

The previous week he had been in London, reviewing the Tories’ field intelligence and focus group research on the effectiveness of the tartan scare message on their target voter groups – Ukip supporters and centrist and right-leaning Lib Dems. He even hit the phones to see the effectiveness of the messaging for himself.

According to Tory insiders, the decision to push so hard on the SNP’s role in propping up a Labour government, to the exclusion of almost all other Tory messaging, was confirmed on this visit.

Two weeks earlier, Messina had been in London and was part of the team prepping David Cameron for the TV debate.

The criticisms of David Cameron’s listless performance in the debate were remarkably similar to the criticisms of Obama’s debate performance against Mitt Romney, particularly their first encounter.

The unwillingness to engage, the aloofness and cold demeanour were striking similarities for politicians who were both previously viewed as skilled debaters.

Messina is a man with a clear view about how to win this sort of campaign. He tells a tale about when Obama tapped him up to run his bid for re-election: Messina made a point of saying that the 2012 campaign could not involve the hopey-changey routine from 2008. If it did, he wouldn’t be involved.

Instead, the campaign would need to be about economic security, with Obama pitched as a responsible executive and Romney as an unready, odd leader from outside of the mainstream, who was too risky to allow near the White House.

There was to be no campaigning in poetry. Not even vaguely inspiring prose. Rather it would be attritional and functional dominated by fear and risk.

Sound familiar?

If the 1992 UK general election is the Tories’ template for this campaign, the 2012 US Democrat presidential campaign is providing its primary colours.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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4 Responses to “The Tories’ tartan scare was made in America by Jim Messina”

  1. swatantra says:

    The way to deal with Boris is to talk OVER him and not let him get a word in, as EdM brilliantly demonstrated on Andrew Marr at the end. Use the same tactics that Boris uses on his opponents and throw it back in his fat face. The man s an absolute disgrace for calling Andrew a’ Lefty BBC journalist’ and Andrew was weak for letting it pass. Andrew should make a formal complaint to the Standards Authority.

  2. Ex Labour says:

    @ Swatantra

    Your comments are somewhat puzzling seeing as ‘Andrew’ is a lefty BBC journalist.

    “The BBC is “a publicly-funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people, compared with the population at large”.

    All this, he said, “creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC”.

    -Andrew Marr

  3. Madasafish says:

    Andrew Marr is married to that well known political journalist Jackie Ashley who is the daughter of Labour peer Lord Ashley of Stoke

    “He was once a member of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory (an off-shoot of the International-Communist League, now known as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty). At Cambridge, Marr says he was a “raving leftie”, and he acquired the nickname ‘Red Andy’.[8][9]”

  4. uglyfatbloke says:

    I’m more concerned at the innate London-centric bias inside the BBC.

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