Something to remember as the Tory-led condemnation of Labour’s alleged anti-Semitism reaches fever pitch:
Shadow education minister Lucy Powell ran day-to-day operations for Labour’s 2015 general election campaign. That year’s dog-whistle consisted of telling the electorate, again and again, that Labour had never apologised for destroying the economy, and that Ed Miliband stabbed his brother in the back and would almost certainly do the same to Britain.
Powell says she felt much of the coded language in the Tory campaign was about Miliband being Jewish, not least the focus on him mishandling a bacon bap. Other messages about his ethnicity verged on the subliminal: repeated references to his roots in north London, a more Jewish area of the city, for instance.
While Powell thinks Crosby might well have been behind this strategy, she says she doesn’t believe for a minute that he is antisemitic or Islamophobic. It’s simply expedience: “It’s pure cynicism – he doesn’t care what the means are by which he can move swing voters. But once he finds it, he’ll just go after it, even if it’s wrong or personal or immoral, or in some cases all three.”
Powell believes the demonisation of Miliband was largely ineffectual. It was only when Crosby and the Tories found their dead cat that anything began to stick. After Miliband’s popular promise to crack down on tax dodgers and non-doms, Conservative defence secretary Michael Fallon “revealed” that the Labour leader would strike a power-sharing deal with the SNP, and was willing to sacrifice Trident to do so. Trident was the dead cat: the story came out of nowhere, says Powell, was wholly unfounded – and it worked. “They were on the back foot about tax evasion and sent Michael Fallon out there with a baseless story,” Powell says. “But with highly emotive language and a couple of splashes in their friendly press, the strategy worked, knocking the other story off the agenda.”