Who? Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre apparently didn't make much of an impression on Tony Blair spindoctor Alastair Campbell. Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold / NTB scanpix
In a blog post this morning, reflecting on a “a short but inspiring” tour of Norway and Denmark, Campbell first refers to the Labour leader as “Jonas Lahr Store”, rather than “Jonas Gahr Støre” (although he can perhaps be be forgiven for dropping the ø).
Then as he signs off on the post, he appears to refer to the Labour party leader as “Lars”.
“Good luck to Lars. Good luck to Helle,” he says after making paean to a mythical progressive union between parts of the UK and Scandinavia. “And long live UPALAND.”
Støre's apparent failure to make a strong impression on Campbell is likely to be uncomfortable, given that the Labour leader is still struggling to fill the enormous gap left in Norwegian politics by his predecessor Jens Stoltenberg, now Nato Secretary General.
According to Labour party spokeswoman Pia Gulbrandsen, Campbell stayed in Oslo from Sunday evening until early Tuesday morning, holding meetings with campaign staffers, giving a talk to Labour MPs and staff, and going to watch Norway play Sweden at the national stadium, where he watched 16-year-old wunderkind Martin Ødegaard go up against Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“Mr Campbell kindly participated in the program free of charge, but the Labour party paid his ticket from London to Oslo,” she said.
In his post, Campbell said he met the Labour party's “strategy team” and deputy leaders.
In his article, Campbell contrasted the narrow parochialism of British politics with the vision of Labour’s social democratic peers in Norway and Denmark.
“What I loved about Norway was the answer of Labour leader Jonas Lahr Store when I asked him how he intended to win the next election,” he writes. “Often at times like this, a private chat over breakfast, the politician comes back to a question like that with smart tactical ideas, a good slogan and news of the hiring of a hotshot foreign advisor.”
“He said this. ‘There are five big issues and give big themes for me and we need to build a campaign and an argument around them.’
Støre’s themes were population growth, ageing, urbanisation, technology and climate change.
But Campbell, a political pragmatist if ever there was one, expresses his admiration that a politician would even think in such broad terms.
“When he had finished I just put down my knife and fork and said thank you,” Campbell writes. “Thank you for being a political leader who sees election campaigns as being about big themes requiring big ideas and big solutions.”
Campbell said that Støre had expressed surprise that the UK’s recent election campaign had been “so small and so parochial”.
“You didn’t even debate Europe and now you are having a referendum?” Campbell quotes him as saying.
He admits that in meetings with the party’s strategy team, he discovered that they did also think about campaign strategy.
“They do the detail of campaigning too, not just big picture,” he writes. “But they were striving, two years out, to get the strategic building blocks in place. This is something that I am afraid Labour did not do with clarity or consistency.”