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The political similarities between Michael Ho -

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The political similarities between Michael Howard and John Howard

Reporter: Kirsten Aiken

KIRSTEN AITKEN: He's led Britain's Conservative Party since November, but Michael Howard is only
now making himself heard with comments like this.

MICHAEL HOWARD, CONSERVATIVE LEADER: There are too many people in Britain today who hide behind
so-called human rights to justify doing the wrong thing. "I've got my rights" has become the verbal
equivalent of two fingers to authority.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: Michael Howard has pledged to stop illegal gypsy camps, even if it means scrapping
the Human Rights Act. That move follows his earlier rhetoric on asylum seekers and immigration -
issues the Conservative Leader's Australian counterpart, John Howard, has used effectively in the

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in
which they come.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: The man picking up the credit, and the blame, for the similarities in style is John
Howard's former campaign director and Michael Howard's current strategist, Lynton Crosby.

NEWS REEL 1: In the words of one Labour strategist, the Conservatives have seized control of the
grid - in other words, day by day, their chosen subjects have dominated the headlines.

NEWS REEL 2: By a very effective Tory campaign in these early stages led partly by their Australian
election guru, Lynton Crosby.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: Is Lynton Crosby putting his stamp on the Conservatives' campaign?

DAVID DAVIS, CONSERVATIVE MP: Well, he's providing some very good leadership, particularly on the
technical side of actually how the campaign runs. I mean, after all, he's been involved in some
pretty good winning campaigns in Australia, and he is a very, very competent man, I must say. In my
dealings with him, I never cease to be impressed by him.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: While the Tory Party is clearly pleased with its new recruit, critics have labelled
the new approach racist.

DAVID DAVIS: Well, it's nonsense. I mean, the areas people are talking about are things like
immigration. We have been very, very careful to talk about the failure and the shambles of the
government's immigration policy, not about any other aspect of it. So what we're doing is
reflecting people's concerns without giving in to any of the prejudices.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: The campaign has clearly struck a chord in Britain, but the Prime Minister, Tony
Blair, has dismissed it as opportunistic.

FRASER KEMP, LABOUR CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think the problem of the Conservative campaign is that
the issues that they are raising demonstrates that they've neither the confidence nor the courage
to talk about the big issues facing the British people, and all the evidence is it's starting to
backfire and it's starting to backfire very, very heavily.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: For some, his presence at Westminster and his role assisting the Conservative Party
is the subject of mirth.


POLITICAL CAMPAIGNER: What you gotta do is to get down amongst the people and find out what they're
really thinking.

POLITICAL LEADER: What's going on in their minds.

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNER: You've gotta find out what they're watching on television.


POLITICAL CAMPAIGNER: That's right, mate. You gotta find out what rings their bells.

POLITICAL LEADER: Right. And if it's popular with the public, it will work for us.


POLITICAL LEADER: I'm happy to do whatever it takes.


SATIRICAL COMEDIAN: (Pretending to be a political hypnotist) Look into my eyes, look into my eyes.
The eyes, the eyes.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: Political commentator Michael White from The Guardian newspaper says it's too early
to tell if the Tories' approach is backfiring but he does question whether the sharp and aggressive
campaign that worked for John Howard can also work for Michael Howard.

MICHAEL WHITE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, THE GUARDIAN: Well, the risky thing about moving political
cultures - things that work in America don't work in Europe. I'm sure that's true of Australia,
too. Some things do work, and all countries borrow each others' election techniques - Margaret
Thatcher took a lot from Ronald Reagan. Labour in this country took a lot from Bill Clinton, and
I'm sure Labor did in Australia, too. So it's a free market in ideas, and dirty ideas as well.

KIRSTEN AITKEN: Although Lynton Crosby and the Conservatives can claim to have taken control of the
news agenda, they've some hard work ahead if they're to convert the publicity into an electoral
victory. Kirsten Aiken, Lateline.