Tom Richmond: Electorate capable of seeing costly imports’ messages

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JOHN PRESCOTT’S son David, an aspiring MP, came up with a footballing analogy after Ed Miliband hired Barack Obama’s guru David Axelrod for Labour’s 2015 election campaign.

“It is like someone from Real Madrid joining Hull City,” observed Prescott junior who clearly believes that the Axelrod appointment is a game-changer as Miliband struggles to convince voters that he is a Prime Minister in the making.

Yet I’m afraid ordinary, hardworking people who inhabit the real world – and not the ‘Westminster Bubble’ that Prescott senior used to lambast – will be inclined to disagree.

And the reason is a simple one. What does it say about the leadership of a party, one that is heavily in debt and already beholden to the trade unions to pay the bills, that it has to pay a six figure salary to an American import?

Labour is not the only guilty party. The same applies to the Conservatives who are paying a reputed £500,000 a year for Australian strategist Lynton Crosby.

He’s the man who was drafted in by Michael Howard a decade ago and boiled down the 2005 Tory manifesto to 10 words: “School discipline. More police. Cleaner hospitals. Lower taxes. Controlled immigration.”

Yet the question is the same. Why do the Tories, supposedly the one political party to espouse value for money, need to waste money like this when its ranks are full of special advisors and apparatchiks of unrivalled intellect?

The reason is this: The main parties believe the only way to win elections is to treat voters as idiots through the use of soundbites.

What they don’t realise, however, is that the electorate is, in fact, far more savvy and is looking for a leader whose policies are driven by a deep-rooted philosophy rather than the yah-boo name-calling.

And they also have clear ideas on what they want – efficient and well delivered public services, less bureaucracy, tax policies which reward hard work, greater recognition of Yorkshire’s economic potential and a new relationship between Britain and Europe.

If the Tories and Labour can’t see this, what hope is there for the country? As such, I can only conclude that the appointments of Axelrod and Crosby are own goals that will only result in the ‘none of the above’ party being the only winner at the 2015 election.

IN response to newspaper reports that an increasing number of voters do not trust Labour’s economic policy because of the party’s uncosted promises, it was very unfortunate that the party fielded health spokesman Andy Burnham to respond.

Every Burnham rant simply reaffirmed the misgivings of the electorate as he criticised a succession of coalition cuts before talking down the economic recovery across the North.

To paraphrase Ed Miliband’s party conference speech, Britain can do better than this. After all, Burnham, a politician who has made his name by scare-mongering, has still to properly apologise for the care failings – and cover-ups – 
that took place when he was Health Secretary.

Until he does so, he remains a grave danger to the nation’s health and wealth. Even more so than Ed Balls – and that’s saying something.

I’M afraid the likes of Andy Burnham have been promoted beyond their capabilities because of this political obsession with youth.

It’s why David Cameron’s aides have been hinting that political veterans Eric Pickles, the Keighley-born Communities Secretary, and Ken Clarke, a former Chancellor, will lose their Cabinet seats in a summer reshuffle.

I presume Cameron wants more women in his top team. Yet, while this is laudable, I’m still of the view that experience – and the ability to do the job in question – should take precedence.

I know it is an old-fashioned view, but politics is littered with people who have been fast-tracked to the Cabinet – and responsibility for a multi-billion pound spending department – when they have no experience of running a small business.

GOOD luck to the Right Reverend Nick Baines, the bishop of the newly-created Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. If his service in Bradford is an accurate barometer, his appointment will be an inspired one.

I also hopes that he takes heed of this week’s considered comments by Sir Barney White-Spunner, the executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, who believes rural churches need to forge a new role in their communities.

He says: “Concerts, crèches, nurseries, public meetings, quizzes, exercise classes, yoga, libraries and seed swaps – all the sort of activities that village communities routinely stage – can take place in the church as well as the village hall.”

I agree. As the debate continues about whether David Cameron was right to describe Britain as a “Christian country”, perhaps the more pertinent question is how the Church of England can respond to the damaging perception that it is out of touch.

WORD reaches me of Ukip’s secret weapon ahead of next month’s elections – the now ex-Manchester United manager David Moyes, who showed, during his 10-month tenureship of Old Trafford, that he was particularly adept at staying out of Europe.

tom.richmond@jpress.co.uk