The Shrum curse watch

By Stephen Pollard
May 24, 2007

Daniel Finkelstein rightly highlights the importance of Bob Shrum:

Shrum is a close adviser to our Prime Minister Designate, Gordon Brown. Guido Fawkes has tales of him addressing Brown's think tank, but that's nopt the half of it. he is a long-standing ally and strategist for the Chancellor.
Indeed. I had my own take on this a couple of years ago, just before the last election, in Mr Finkelstein's august organ - Why Gordon Brown Should Be Afraid Of The Curse Of Shrum:

Coming soon to a Labour election campaign near you: disaster. Soon, that is, but not - for the Conservatives - soon enough.

On Wednesday, a man called Bob Shrum announced his retirement. Unless you have an obsessive interest in the minutiae of American politics, it is unlikely that you will have heard of Mr Shrum. He is one of the most renowned speechwriters and political consultants in the business, having worked on eight presidential campaigns. That alone is a record.

His reputation is legendary - so much so that, at the start of each US presidential campaign, the Democrat candidates are said to take part in an informal 'Shrum primary', competing to become his client. The latest winner of that race was John Kerry, who beat John Edwards and Dick Gephardt for his services and brought in Mr Shrum as his closest adviser for last year�s election. Indeed, the only two recent campaigns in which his services were not used were those of 1992 and 1996.

Mr Shrum's advice comes at a price: he is said to have earned around $5 million for his role on Senator Kerry's campaign. But the more pertinent cost is not financial. It is that hiring Mr Shrum for a presidential race means that you guarantee - stone cold, nailed on, utterly certain - that you lose.

The two campaigns in which Mr Shrum and his advice were spurned were won by Bill Clinton, who had no time for him. His eight campaigns, beginning with Edmund Muskie and George McGovern and ending with Al Gore and John Kerry, produced a 100 per cent record of failure. Eight from eight, as they put it in America. As the polls refused to budge in Mr Kerry's favour last year, one of his aides suggested that his staff wear T-shirts with the slogan 'Reverse the Curse' over a picture of Mr Shrum.

He made at least one critical misjudgment last year. He told Mr Kerry to go easy on George Bush: all out attack on a wartime President would be a mistake. The Kerry campaign was thus lacklustre from the very start. Oppose the President! But, er, why? The Democratic candidate and his campaign began to spark into life only after Mr Clinton rang, from his hospital room before heart surgery, to criticise Mr Shrum's advice and urge Mr Kerry to take the gloves off.

There are many reasons why Gordon Brown will prove an electoral disaster for Labour. Bob Shrum's advice, if heeded, is surely one of them.


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