Andy Burnham backer drafted in
“I’m not a PR man. I’m a campaigner,” so says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s new speechwriter who began work last week.
David Prescott, the son of former deputy Prime Minister Lord “Prezza” Prescott joined the Corbyn cause just as the scale of his challenge was being emphasised by Labour’s fourth place in the Sleaford and North Hykeham by election and the YouGov poll showing Corbyn was rated best Prime Minister by just 16% — trailing Theresa May by 36%.
So what does the young Prezza bring to his task? A veteran trade union leader who is a close friend of Prezza senior says “David is smart. He sees round corners. He’s good at bringing people together.”
The young Prescott is a former BBC journalist who spent the last six years at the communications Commucan which he co-founded. He is a self-described strategist and media trainer and declares that public relations has changed forever. Clients “want campaigns that bring about real change – that change people’s attitudes, change the media agenda and change the political debate.”
Peter Edwards the editor of the activists website Labour list has come up with a six point list of priorities that suggest Prescott should interpret his role very broadly. There’s no doubt that Corbyn needs to sharpen up his speeches which can often be rambling, stale and aimed at true believers. But he also need to craft a message that reaches “middle England towns, in areas outside Corbyn’s core support in London and major cities.”
Edwards notes that Prescott fought last year’s General Election in the safe Tory seat of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, next door to Sleaford and North Hykeham. “It is exactly for this type of town that Labour needs a new approach so if Prescott can help devise one, and then deliver it in some fluent words for his boss, then he will quickly become indispensable.”
Prescott is no Corbynista. He did back the leaders re-election this year but supported Andy Burnham in 2015 and in his CV he records that he “worked closely with Alastair Campbell on improving the Labour Party’s capacity to campaign online.” That impresses me but may alarm some in the in the Corbyn camp who regard “Blairism” as the enemy.
For us card carrying optimists perhaps the most encouraging sign is that Corbyn recognises that he need the help that Prescott offers. The question is whether the old dog is up to learning new tricks. There are plenty of pessimists in Westminster and around the country who will doubt it.