According to the Independent on Sunday’s main story this morning Labour’s campaign chief, Alan Milburn, warned delegates at a private meeting at the party conference in Gateshead that the party had to “fight dirty” in order to avoid defeat.
The report by Andy McSmith and Francis Elliott states: Alan Milburn secretly told Labour activists yesterday that the party needs to keep up its “dirty tricks” campaign to raise public interest in the coming general election, or see the Government’s 161-seat majority wiped out by a record low turn-out. Labour’s election boss defended the tactics at a private briefing for delegates, after posters attacking the Tory leader Michael Howard and deemed anti-Semitic were withdrawn last week. Private polling shared with senior cabinet figures last week has led them to believe Labour cannot allow the election to become a referendum on its own performance but must involve the Tories in a political scrap.
No doubt party spinners will try to mitigate the story’s effect but hasn’t this give a huge hostage to fortune to all the opposition parties? Almost all campaigners across the political spectrum engage in “dirty tricks” of some sorts – and the Tory campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, has been described in his native Australia as the “master of the black arts” – but the last thing you do is admit it even to party activists in private.
Hasn’t this given an excellent weapon to the Tory campaign against Labour’s effort to try to demonise Michael Howard which was starting to get some traction? Isn’t the admission just what the Lib Dems have been looking for as some polls have shown their position diminishing with all the focus being on Labour and the Tories?
And what about Labour’s supporters – are all of them going to be as keen to vote for a party that says it needs to “fight dirty”?
One thing’s for certain – Milburn is going to find it hard sweping this under the carpet.