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Ex-Obama campaign strategists to battle each other in British election

| Friday, April 18, 2014, 5:36 p.m.
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 file photo, Senior White House adviser David Axelrod waits for a television interview in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Britain's opposition Labour Party has recruited Axelrod, a top adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama's campaigns, to help with its leader's election bid next year. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and his wife Samantha stop for a drink by a beach during their holiday on the Spanish Island of Lanzarote, Sunday, April 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno, pool)

LONDON — Setting up an intriguing election battle, Britain's opposition Labor Party announced on Friday that it had hired President Obama's chief campaign adviser to help the party grab power next year from the Conservatives.

The decision to recruit David Axelrod means that the 2015 British election will pit two of Obama's strategists against each other. Working for the Conservatives is Jim Messina, who, like Axelrod, toiled on both of Obama's presidential campaigns and who served as his deputy White House chief of staff during his first term.

“David is used to tough fights, and he is going to be a huge asset to our campaign,” said Douglas Alexander, election coordinator for the Labor Party, which governed for 13 years, mostly with Tony Blair at the helm.

The Conservative Party was elected in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, but has dropped in the polls in recent months. Voters, however, routinely rate David Cameron, the polished, articulate prime minister, more favorably than they do Labor leader Ed Miliband, who strikes many Britons as too inexperienced and off-puttingly nerdy.

Miliband is trying to improve his image by promoting himself as a vocal champion of the squeezed middle class and as a critic of Britain's widening income gap. In a video message to the Labor faithful, Axelrod said he emphasized those themes for Obama as his chief campaign adviser in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.

The British media reported that Axelrod — whom the Labor Party website briefly identified as “David Alexrod” — would participate in strategy meetings and earn a six-figure sum.

Trying to outfox him will be Messina, whom Cameron hired last summer. Axelrod's former Obama campaign teammate is known for his data-crunching and social-media campaign expertise.

That two Democratic operatives would be recruited by opposing parties in Britain, one of which uses the word “conservative” in its name, is not particularly strange.

The Tories are further to the left than their American cousin, the Republicans.

For example, Cameron's government wrote and passed a same-sex marriage bill.

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