By Harry Phibbs
Follow Harry on Twitter
In the 1988 US Presidential election, the Democrat candidate, Michael Dukakis, was criticised for being soft on crime due to his policy of "weekend furloughs" described as a "revolving door" prison policy. The Republican campaign ran negative advertising pointing out that many prisoners committed further crimes while they were let out. The example of Willie Horton was featured so prominently that the Republican campaign manager Lee Attwater joked that "by the time we're finished they are going to wonder if Willie Horton is Dukakis's running mate."
I suggest equivalent emphasis should be placed, during the British General Election in 2015, on making the French President Francois Hollande the "running mate" for Ed Miliband.
When Mr Hollande won last year the message from Mr Miliband was clear. What Mr Hollande would do for France, Mr Miliband wished to do for Britain.
After meeting the new President an effusive Mr Miliband said:
"The points of agreement we have were around the fact that the tide is turning against an austerity approach, that there needs to be a different way forward found.
"What President Hollande is seeking to do in France and what he is seeking to do in leading the debate in Europe is find that different way forward.
"We are in agreement in seeking that new way that needs to be found and I think can be found."
"We also discussed the emergency situation we face in relation to youth unemployment in our countries and the action that can be taken to do something about that.
"I believe action can be taken. I don't believe we need to leave a quarter of our young people out of work and nor does the president of France."
Shadow Cabinet Minister Jon Trickett said:
Determined to cut the deficit within a single term of the presidency, he has nonetheless broken with the right-wing European consensus on austerity. In Paris the other day, in an echo of the points that Ed Balls and Miliband have been making, Hollande said that in austere times, the lack of a growth plan can only lead to more austerity.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said on the eve of Mr Hollande's election, that it represented a "yearning" not to have austerity. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls thought Mr Hollande's idea to borrow another 20 billion Euros could be a good way to reduce the deficit.
How is the French experiment with Miliband-style Socialism going? The early results are not encouraging. Figures from Eurostat this morning confirm that unemployment, including youth unemployment, is rising. This was an area where Mr Hollande promised rapid progress – declaring he would "reverse the curve" within a year. Yet the evidence is that Government spending on "job creation" paid for with extra tax has the net impact of destroying more jobs than it creates.
It might be fair to give more time before reaching a final verdict.
Then again, by 2015, Mr Hollande will have had more time to considerately test out Mr Miliband's policies on the French. He has tried out tax hikes on the rich – prompting many to pay 0% tax by leaving the country. The actor Gérard Depardieu bought a house across the border in Belgium, lamenting to the French PM that he was leaving "because you consider that success, creativity, talent, anything different, are grounds for sanction."
Then there is his "anti austerity" approach of dodging public spending cuts and claiming he could still reduce the deficit – only to have to return to spending cuts later after that failed. In attempting to appease the unions and other vested interests he has ended up alienating them while still seeking to avoid the hard choices of economic reality.
Guido notes that Mr Miliband has now gone a bit quiet.
So how much should the Conservatives make use of the French example? Diplomacy requires certain constraints. David Cameron and Mr Hollande agree about backing the opposition in Syria, while Ed Miliband is on the opposite side. In a General Election campaign this will be less of a concern. In any event,George Osborne was already making the point in his speech yesterday:
In a modern global economy, where people can move anywhere in the world, we cannot have a top rate of tax that discourages people from living here, setting up businesses here, investing here, creating jobs here.
If you don’t believe me, ask France.
They’re planning to whack up their top rate of tax – and you know what’s happening?
Job creation is down as people are leaving the country.
As Nye Bevan used to say: "Why look into the crystal ball when you can read the book." We know what a Miliband Government would mean – its policies are already triumphant across the Channel. This is a warning which we should, and I suspect will, hear more of over the next couple of years.