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Attacks on Miliband are straight from Karl Rove's playbook

18/11/2014 14:49 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The Tories have a plan to win your vote at the General Election: kick Ed Miliband, kick him again, then kick him some more. Their election machine believes that the Labour leader is an electoral liability, and a Labour liability is a Tory asset. They believe that the more voters see of Miliband, the likelier they are to vote Tory.

This strategy is straight from the playbook of Karl Rove, the American electoral svengali who masterminded two victories for George W Bush in 2000 and 2004. The Rove strategy has two main components: firstly, play the man not the ball. And secondly, when you play the man, don't hit him on a weakness, take on his strongest attribute. In 2004, George W Bush faced a Presidential challenger in John Kerry. John Kerry had served in the Vietnam war and been awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. Bush had spent the Vietnam War safely in the Texas National Guard. No matter. By the time Rove was finished with Kerry, a good part of the American electorate believed that he was a coward and a peacenik, and George W Bush was a warrior.

This time the mastermind is Lynton Crosby, the strategist in charge of the Conservative Party's election campaign. He too is a specialist in corrosive, personal campaigning and whipping up fear. His signature contribution to Michael Howard's election campaign in 2005 was to persuade him to focus on fear of immigration. He has persuaded David Cameron to focus his message on criminals, foreigners, welfare recipients, anything really, that induces fear and insularity in those prone to it.

Then there are the newspapers. It is to be expected that the Telegraph and the Times are unlikely to support Labour. They haven't done so in elections past and are unlikely to do so in elections to come. But they are, it seems, taking things much further this time: they are simply are not reporting Labour policies. Your typical Times or Telegraph reader might not like it, but they surely have the right to expect that their paper inform them that Labour plans to give parents more free childcare, hire more doctors, nurses, surgeons and midwives, and build a million new homes.

The Times' determination to kick Miliband has now reached the point of parody: on Tuesday they published a piece by former Gordon Brown-era spin doctor Damian McBride which argues that "Miliband never really faced a genuine coup attempt" but which Times sub editors have seen fit to entitle "Think the Miliband Plot is Over? You Should Think Again."

None of this, however, will work. Labour remain likely to be the largest party in the House of Commons after the election, that has been the case relatively consistently since 2012, and, in case you hadn't noticed, Ed Milband was the leader of the party throughout that time. Polls show he is consistently seen as the most honest of the party leaders.

But above all, it is hard to believe that having the Conservatives attack Ed Miliband personally will persuade anyone to vote Conservative. Not just because I don't think most British people want to be led by a party they see as nasty. Nor even just because we are fundamentally decent, and when we see a man being attacked very personally we are instinctively sceptical of the attacker. But mainly because if the Tories spend the election campaign talking about Ed, and Ed spends it talking about doctors, nurses, childcare, building new houses, raising wages - in short - rolling up his sleeves and governing in the interests of real people - he will win.

Dr Azeem Ibrahim is the Executive Chairman of the Scotland Institute