Coffee House

How Lynton Crosby could save the Tories in 2015

18 November 2012

12:17 PM

18 November 2012

12:17 PM

Over the summer, the balance of probability nudged away from a Cameron win towards a Miliband win in 2015. The collapse of the boundary review deal lifted the bar for Cameron, who might have struggled anyway. The Cameron operation – for all of its strengths elsewhere – has proven weak at campaigns. Failing to win a majority in a recession against a loathed opponent was one sign, the disastrous mayoral referenda another and the tragicomedy of the PCC elections completed the hat-trick. And then there were the U-turns, many of them defeats at the hands of ad hoc groups running a decent week-long campaigns: 38 Degrees on health reform, etc. The prospect of the 2010 team running the 2015 election would encourage only Labour.

But when outsiders run Tory campaigns – Matthew Elliot on AV and Lynton Crosby in London – things work out differently. Crosby is the closest thing Britain has to a professional campaigner. I know him reasonably well: he is no ideologue. Hiring him is not a matter of lurching to the right, but recognising the need to have a professional running a disciplined campaign. This means having two or three messages at the start, and not introducing concepts like ‘The Big Society’ in the final weeks of a campaign. It means reaching out and building wider alliances, not relying on what one Tory minister refers to as a “chumocracy”.


Obama’s re-election showed how a good campaign can prevail even when the candidate has no clear message. Cameron has several messages, but he chops and changes so often that none really cut through. Cameron has given 12,000 pupils the ability to enter independent schools, for free. He acted courageously and swiftly over Libya, putting steel into American spines. His welfare reforms are making the biggest, most sustained assault on British poverty for a generation. His health reforms will mean that the excellence of private clinics is made accessible to all, not just those who can afford it. Yet these jewels of accomplishment are too often invisible, buried beneath the gravel of omnishambles.

This isn’t the fault of spin doctors. The butterfly-mindedness comes from the top. As one of his longstanding allies told me last month, ‘lack of Prime Ministerial grip’. He needs help, and Crosby will provide it. Crosby’s enemies will portray him as a Fosters-swilling right-wing thug, as Alastair Campbell sought to in 2005. But his appointment is not about political positioning on a left-right spectrum. It’s not about immigration, etc. Crosby is a campaigner, not a policymaker. He will play the hand he’s dealt. His appointment is about the basic art of campaigning; having one Masterchef to replace too many cooks.

Yet much depends on how much authority Crosby is given for 2015. If he is just another adviser, then chaos may well prevail. Yet if Crosby is given the power over Cameron’s campaign as he had over Boris’s, then I’d say that the balance of probability will be nudged back towards a Cameron win.

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Show comments
  • Shamit Ghosh

    way too many idiots with little idea about politics commenting on this thread – have you taken a look at what happened to the Republicans recently in the US. But I guess nutters and pragmatism is a good example of an oxymoron

  • Heartless etc.,

    So, – cutting the crap – the H2B now wants to crackdown on ‘time-wasting’ appeals to bolster / boost economy. Obviously trying to smooth way for HS2.

    How can LC save Tories in 2015? – take the H2B out into the Garden of No 10, blindfold him, stand him against the wall, and ….

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Actually come to think of it didn’t Crosby run Howard’s campaign for him? How did that turn out?

  • William Blakes Ghost

    The Cameron operation – for all of its strengths elsewhere – has proven weak at campaigns

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha What strengths? Granted he’s crap at campaigns but what has he done well in the last 12 months? Nelson should keep off the foolade……

  • trevor21

    A new position is created within Downing street,polisher of the Prime Ministers turd.

  • In2minds

    Tits AND nuts, what sort of creature is that Trevor?

  • Heartless etc.,

    “Conservative modernisers are bracing themselves for renewed attacks on the Tories as “the nasty party”” runs a headline! OFGS! The H2B has run out of the tired Bliarist options of “being all things to all (wo)men” and is seen as a sick joke. FGS DO something positive you spineless legless creature! Get us OUT of the EUSSR! Do something to reinstate real money – not this plastic trash produced by your weird BoE boss! Get moving you useless EUSSR placeman.

  • David Trant

    If Labour hadn’t been so dim as to select Livingstone again, the result in London might have been different, what would Crosby’s reputation been then I wonder. The idea that one person can make much of a difference is nonsense. There are to many variables these days, how many votes will UKIP get for instance.

    • M. Wenzl

      Exactly. I would also point out that although the media are now spinning the story to make out that Boris won over swing-voters and disillusioned Labourites, this is utterly untrue. Boris’ campaign was shambolic, based more on attacking Ken’s tax affairs than anything else. And although Boris and Crosby may have persuaded swing-voters and disillusioned Labourites not to vote for Ken, they certainly did not persuade them to vote Boris. The fact that periphery candidates such as the independent Siobhan Benita and Green Jenny Jones (both of whom were centre-left) won 5% of the vote each is a reflection of this. Since the margin between Boris and Ken was just 3% (very narrow considering how toxic a prospect Ken became), had these candidates not polled these numbers Ken very likely could have won.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    With UKIP on 10% overall but 14% in the crucial 60+ demographic, the CONs can’t win.
    It doesn’t matter how Crosby spins Cameron’s message, the message is that we must stay in the EU because HE says so and the EU’s policy of gay ‘marriage’ must be foisted on the British people again, because he says so.
    He’s going to lose.

    • Tony Hatfield

      and he didn’t do great things for michael howard in 2005. ‘are you thinking what i’m thinking’

  • Stewart Jones

    If Crosby is that good why in 700 pages of John Howards autobiography did he not give any credit to Crosby? We need to be told. And if he is that good why did Libertas fail at the last European election with Crosby in charge? And is anyone saying Boris would have lost without Crosby? I think not.

  • In2minds

    Cameron – “He needs help, and Crosby will provide it” – No he needs replacing and Crosby knows it, if he’s any good.

  • Jebediah

    Agreed the Tory party badly needs a bit of discipline. Read the Art of War.

  • Bellevue

    How about actually LISTENING to conservative voters, eh?
    Scrap gay marriage. Give tax breaks to married couples. Stand up to the EU – and mean it. Sort out immigration, seriously. Tell the european court of human rights that WE decide the laws in OUR country. Introduce flatter, fairer taxes. etc etc.
    Nah – cant see it happening.
    UKIP for me…..

    • Fergus Pickering

      Would you refuse to vote Tory because of gay marriage? I mean JUST because of gay marriage.I mean, what’s it to you? I thought Tories were renowned for minding their own business. Most people want gay marriage. So let them have it. Why are flatter taxes fairer? Surely it is fairer that the rich pay more. Most of them, of you, are rich through good fortune and not hard work. I could go on. I am a conservative voter and I shall vote for Dave. I’m not at all sure I would vote for you. Have you had a fresh idea for the last forty years? What was it then

      • ButcombeMan

        Seeking to re-define marriage, a word that is deeply embedded in our national culture is offensive to many people and not just those of faith.

        Redefinition of marriage is not about civil partnerships and it has nothing to do with “equality”. A homosexual partnership can never have the same characteristics biologically or socially as heterosexual marriage.

        Cameron made yet another mistake, hitching himself to this, for what?

        He either believes in it himself-and wants to force his views on all of us-or-more likely, it was a cynical ploy to cultivate a homosexual constituency.

        Either way it was a mistake. It is a typical Cameron mistake. A huge investment for a negative return.

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          Cameron is simply following Orders with the ‘gay marriage’ agenda. It is an EU policy:

          The French President is trying to introduce it in France – doing away with the terms Mere and Pere in law – and causing violenct clashes on the streets of Paris.
          Spain was proposing to introduce a law, but has delayed it due to the economic crisis.

          • ButcombeMan


            I am obliged but it does not seem you are right.

            I note this quote there:
            “and impose “gay marriage” or homosexual civil partnerships on every member state in the Union”.,

            The UK has Civil Partnerships, achieved with very little objection, surely there was no NEED to progress to re-defining marriage? Have I missed something?

            Yes I was aware of the trouble in France. Fortunately we do not behave like the French but the simmering anger is still there. The erosion of faith in Cameron has been aggravated by this.

            I still think,in the absence of any other evidence, it was Cameron’s silly initiative.

            He messed up. An own goal. Bad politics.

            • Boudicca_Icenii

              Civil Partnerships give legal protection to gay couples … but it isn’t marriage. Cameron wants to conform with other EU nations that are legislating for gay marriage. Obama wants to as well, so it may ultimately be coming from the UN.
              Regardless… the policy is not a Britiish one.

            • Dimoto

              According to the press, it was Osborne’s idea.

              • ButcombeMan

                That might explain the utter stupidity.
                I never could understand this intellect Osborne is supposed to have.
                I just wish he would demonstrate it occasionally

          • IRISHBOY

            I’ve said before that Cameron is a mere patsy, the message boy, but his vanity and either the laziness, or collusion more like, of his sycophants (journalists in old money) can admit his impotence as a front-man, a Quisling, a collaborator, a fraud, unworthy of any respect, a defamer of his office because he heads a Government which doesn’t rule by and for the people who, apparently only, elected it, but imposes diktat from a faceless, unelected, unelectable foreign and alien dictatorial enforcer of totalitarianism.

            In short, I’m little cross!

        • HooksLaw

          ‘ a word that is deeply embedded in our national culture’ – a nob’s comment.

          the word that is deeply embedded in our culture is ‘divorce’. closely followed by ‘adultery’

          what a load of tits you nut jobs are.

          • ButcombeMan

            Are you old enough for the discussion here? This place is (mostly) for grown-ups.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        It isn’t a case of ‘live and let live’ though. It means massive changes to our laws and according to Elizabeth Truss, Education Minister, the bullying and sacking of teachers who for religious reasons disagree with it and will not teach it to children.
        If I had school age children, I’d be seriously considering having them home tutored.
        This is legalised BULLYING by a Government which is acting on behalf of the EU. This isn’t Cameron’s policy …. it originates in the EU.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Will not teach what to children? I have no idea what you are talking about. Gay marriage would be part of the civil law. Why would this need to be ‘taught’. Or do you mean that the fact of the existence of homosexuality should not be taught by people who do not accept it as a fact? You know, like gravity and Darwinism. In the early 1960s I remember discussing in the English class whether or not Antonio is in love with Bassanio in ‘The Merchant of Venice’. He is, we concluded. .

      • Bellevue

        Well Fergus, yes I would refuse to vote Tory because of gay marriage – and I happen to know that there are MANY people who agree with me (a lot of them who are not ‘political’ and have no interest generally, but feel very strongly about this issue).
        Flat taxes…. well, doh! with a flat tax of 10%, the rich would pay more. 10% of 10,000 pounds is a great deal less than 10% of a million. And the millionaires would be more likely to actually PAY their 10% instead of using accountants to avoid having to pay anything.
        Saying that most of them (dont include me – I am as poor as a church mouse) are rich through good fortune and not hard work just shows your ignorance. The richest people in the world are those who have made their money through hard work….. think Bill Gates. Think Richard Branson.
        I am not asking you to vote for me. And I have had plenty of fresh ideas in the last forty years…. when I was a teenager, I was a communist. Since then, I have learnt that socialists always run out of other people’s money.
        Have YOU had any fresh ideas??? and what were they then?

    • EJ

      SPOT ON!

      • Bellevue

        Aw…… EJ, many thanks!

  • Vulture

    If you seriously suppose that there is any possibility at all – let alone a ‘balance of probability’ – of Cameron’s Conservatives winning the next election, Fraser, then you have swapped critical thinking for delusional wishful thinking.
    Even if Dave a handed over his campaign to a propagamnda committee consisting of Crosby, Dr Goebbels and J. Walter Thompson he would not, could not win.
    He is loathed by the working class, the public service workers and their dependents, immigrants, most of the media, and – last but by no means least – the millions of loyal Tories who hacve stopped voting Conservative since he took over or who have defected to UKIP. That’s quite a big constituency. And given that he didn’t manage it in 2010 how likely is it that he will in 2015 when his Lib Dem mates will be toast?
    He represents a tiny clique of metropolitan liberals and…and that’s it actually.
    Crosby’s appointment is a sign of desperation. Although I’m a Crosby sort of conservative it just makes me despise Dave the more.

    • wrinkledweasel

      Dr Goebbels loved his boss, largely because you knew where you stood with him – firm but fair.

      Goebbels couldn’t save Dave because Dave has no vision. Dave has no ideals. He’s not even a convincing baddie like Thatcher. Dave has no idea of where he is going. He’s a pragmatist and that is all. And not a very good one either. UKIP will see the end of him and to be honest I’d be glad. At least some in the chattering political classes would understand that people want clarity and direction.

  • Mike Barnes

    Yeah, what a genius he is. Wasn’t the the mastermind behind those “ARE YOU THINKING WHAT WE’RE THINKING?” billboards in 2005.

    Of course the the majority of the country saw those adverts and replied, “no not really” before voting for Tony Blair.

    Advice for 2015, if you’re going to be racist, at least be obvious about it. Most racists are too thick to pick up on subtle messaging like that Lynton.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yep that campaign was a disaster. He took some good policies and a good politician Michael Howard and rendered them unelectable. He really just reinforced Michael Howard’s “something of the night” persona with those creepy “sidling up to you” messages.

    • Dimoto

      The problem with 2005, was that Mr lawyer Howard chose to run on a UKIP ticket, and the Brown economic meltdown was still in the future.
      Not even Crosby could deliver a UKIP victory.

  • Collamore

    And what would a “saved” Cameron-Tory Party do that’s anything different from what it’s doing now?

  • the viceroy’s gin


    “The Cameron operation – for all of its strengths elsewhere – has proven weak at campaigns.”


    The Cameroons have strengths?

    Name them.

    FFS, name one.

    The only thing we might be able to conjure up came along in 2010: “They’re not Gordon Brown.”

    And now, the incompetents scramble to escape their fate, when the electorate hews to the inevitable “They’re not Dave the Cameroon”, and votes accordingly.

    Clearly, panic has set in at Cameroon HQ, along with an anti-conservative quest for salvation, complete with a mythical figure to bring it. This is how you know that the Cameroons are fully leftist, that they subscribe to personality over principle, like any other leftists. First with Dave, and now grasping for this new cult figure, spoken of by the Speccie teenagers in hushed tones, and then triumphantly.

    All personality, all the time. Nothing else matters.

    Oh sure, Dave has principles, and if you don’t like them, he has others. I mean, it’s nothing to get excited over. You’re buying Brand Dave, and what’s inside the box is nothing you need to worry about. The new guy will bring you around on all this, you plebs. You see, it’s all about the advertising and marketing. That’s the only problem here.


    • Hexhamgeezer

      I’d second that question. What are dave’s strengths?

      When God invented the word ‘nebulous’ he had a picture of dave in His head.

      RE Crosby ‘he is no ideologue’ I bet! – his job is to get dave elected, tell dave what to say (not do) – no ideology but what’s on offer instead? A ‘consensus’?
      Hold the teeming hordes of voters back!

    • ButcombeMan

      Or NOT buying brand Dave? Imagine if Cameron and Osborne, were subject to a Which type review.

      Would they be a “best buy”?

      They could not make “best buy” when the alternative was Gordon Brown, arguably the most incompetent Chancellor since WW2.

      Who could possibly have confidence in Osborne after his last budget unwound?

      His core voters distrust Cameron, he did that all by himself. There IS still a groundswell of opinion that wants him to do better ( he remains to most minds, the best choice for PM) but the people are drifting and almost detached from what he seems to represent.

      Cameron ducks and dives trying to satisfy odd groups of voters, most of whom will never really develop much enthusiasm for him. His very slipperiness and lack of clarity, absolutely alienate his core vote, even card carrying party members. Does he understand this? Apparently not.

      The public would forgive Cameron a lot, if his government demonstrated absolute managerial competence. It does not.

      No amount of campaign spin and message clarity, can cure that.

      • Dimoto

        “The public would forgive Cameron a lot, if his government demonstrated absolute managerial competence. It does not”

        Bang on the money there ! My greatest disappointment – Tories are supposed to be capable administrators at the very least.

    • Dimoto

      If you had read Fraser’s blog-post with a modicum of comprehension, you would have noted several “strengths”. Or are you one of Blair’s ‘lost generation’ ?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        So empty talking points are “strengths”?

        That thinking is the reason the Cameroons are on the way out the door.

  • Salisbury

    I’m sceptical that Crosby is as good as he is cracked up to be, but one thing is for certain and that is that this strategy will only work if he is given total control of the message and the campaign. This means, among other things, ensuring that Steve Hilton remains in California and adopting a Raiders of the Lost Ark strategy for George Osborne – ie nail him in a packing case and bury him somewhere in a huge warehouse from where he can never be retrieved.

    Meanwhile, splits at the Speccie I perceive, with Fraser Nelson evidently a Crosby groupie while his political editor never misses the opportunity to tell us that Osborne is the most acute political genius ever to have walked the planet.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yeah, let’s not forget Osborne is a genius at identifying and selecting

      the greatest minds of our age, which he then surrounds himself with, the better to make fiercely intelligent and successful decisions about the economy. LOL Can’t you tell?

  • Derek

    Can you stop lauding the welfare reforms? An uprating of out of work benefits in April this year of 5.3 percent combined with a reduction of in work benefits is not a successful strategy for encouraging people off benefits. Benefits should be cut and then frozen and paid in food stamps to avoid the current recycling to treasury in booze and fags.

  • Mike Brighton

    I’m not sure that Crosby can polish a turd

    • Heartless etc.,

      The H2B, replete with stupid notions about who he is, and what he is about, threw everything away long ago and is an irrelevance. Why not just dump disaster and start again? Probably take decades, but he’ll merely be an historical footnote – under “other factors that led to the decay of Britain as a once-great Nation”

    • Austin Barry

      Crosby won’t be polishing a turd but theTory party’s coffin. UKIP is already digging the grave assisted by the party itself.

      So trebles and hic jacets all round, then.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Well, I’m happy to give you the benefit of the doubt. But perhaps you could nudge Mr Crosby towards the intriguing paradox of why Mr Cameron, who once spoke passionately about “sweeping away” New Labour’s nanny state, is now so busy proposing the building of a rather large extension to it?

    • vix

      Nannies were often kept in the house long after the children needed them.
      Question for Fraser:’His appointment is about the basic art of campaigning; having one Masterchef to replace too many cooks.’
      Are you going to tell us they have actually removed some other expensive non-civil service PR posts now they have this guru in? Is he on civil service salary?
      More detail perhaps?

    • EJ

      Someone employed to lie to us / pull the wool over our eyes is not the answer. Drastic and conserted action on the economy, the EU, immigration, law and order etc is. The H2B has had two years to give it to us. He has given us gay marriage and wind turbines. Forget it. Vote UKIP.

  • anyfool

    That Crosby will be good for the Tories is a given, how could he be any worse than the current lot.

    If he is to make a go of it, his first action must be to shut Osborne up, the blood drains from you when he tries to smile, he simply cannot do sincerity, he then has to make Cameron say actually what he means, long convoluted statements usually mean lies or you are frightened to speak the truth, straight talking never did anyone any harm in the long term, if he cannot perform these simple tasks nothing will save this lot.

    • Patriccia Shaw

      Yes Osborne must be gagged.

      As must Netanyahu.

      What about more on him.

      And while we are at it cannot we bring back James102 who has intersting relevant views on this and much else including the Carribean slave trade.

      • Patriccia Shaw

        “I find it interesting that at least two of the regular Speccie commentators …… tagged on to regular commentators with almost serial frequency and output, almost appear as a form of stalking.”
        I guess they learn from the vicar.

        • Hexhamgeezer


          • Vix

            OK my identity stolen Patriccia. I don’t use language like that.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Hello telemachus, cross-dressing again? Well I suppose it is Sunday.

    • Dimoto

      Yes, whatever Fraser says, when push comes to shove, Cameron will always support his chums.

      If he sacked Letwin and Willetts, told Osborne to concentrate on his day job, and stopped listening to the fop-tendency (Vaizey, Llewellyn, Zac Goldsmith & co.), Crosby might have a chance of “cutting through”.