Has an innocent lad from the Austral plains caused such a stir in
Pommyland since Barry McKenzie?
Former Liberal Party federal director went off to work for the
Conservative Party only a weeks ago – and already his honest, plain speaking
Australian ways have got him embroiled in a fight with Tory chairman Lord
Saatchi and provoked letters to The Times from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.
Annabel Crabb wrapped the story for The Age last weekend – Liberal export shakes up Tories,
but it goes something like this:
Conservative leader Michael Howard has effectively handed full control
of the party machine to Crosby, sidelining Saatchi and his joint chairman,
frontbencher Liam Fox. They were
unimpressed – and made their feelings quite clear.
Then Crosby denounced Saatchi – famed for his advertising work on
Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 campaign – for being “20 years out of date”. When returned to Australia for Christmas last
week, Lord Saatchi took revenge sacking Mr Crosby’s chief aide, Matt Jones, and
sending an email to all staff at Conservative Central Office, CC’d to Howard,
which claimed Crosby had apologised.
Ubiquitous “friends” of Crosby have denied this to British media – as London’s Daily Telegraph reports here – and Jones preparing an unfair dismissal case.
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One newspaper report on the weekend quoted an anonymous Tory official as
saying “Morale is at rock bottom. This
is not how Labour’s formidable Millbank operation won power in 1997 is it?”
Morale must now be even lower.
The Conservatives might be on their third leader since Tony Blair came
to power, but New Labour is a thoroughly tarnished brand name, taxes and
regulation are increasing and the Prime Minister considered as trustworthy as,
well, John Howard.
An election is expected in May.
How is Labour preparing? Well,
wildly illiberal legislation to introduce a compulsory biometric ID card for
all British residents – and bill them 80 quid for the privilege – has been
under debate this week.
The minister behind the bill, former home secretary David Blunkett, was
forced to resign last week over his affair with the married American publisher
of the eccentric Tory weekly The Spectator and claims he improperly gave her
ministerial spouse travel warrants, fast-tracked residency for her Philippino
nanny and even ordered the police around when she was pestered by schoolboys
playing the age old game of “knock down ginger” – ringing the front doorbell
and running away.
Despite this, there is no sign the Conservatives have been able to
capitalise on the Government’s troubles.
A poll published in The Guardian this week
had Labour up two per cent since November.
The Blair Government has a nine point lead over the Conservatives, who
sit on 31 per cent – the largest lead in more than 18 months. Under Britain’s first past the post electoral
system, this would see Labour returned with a majority of more than 150 seats.
The Conservatives are flatlining.
Howard has only been opposition leader for 12 months, but there are now
reports that he may face a leadership challenge from an openly gay junior
member of his own frontbench, Alan Duncan.
In the wake of George W Bush’s win last month, senior
Tory sources were boasting about a “mean machine” – “Voter Vault” software,
according to one report from The Spectator, “used by Karl Rove and his acolytes to sift out the
tiny minority who determined the result” of the
“The Conservatives remain exactly where they were before, becalmed in
the low thirties, seemingly heading for a third consecutive landslide defeat,”
the story said. “But a mood of optimism
endures. Michael Howard, when he predicts victory, somehow conveys conviction.”
This smacks of talk of wonder weapons unheard of
since the Red Army come knocking on the door of the Berlin bunker.
Australians are familiar with the
Voter Vault. We call it database
management and use it with direct mail – and have been doing it for years.
To top it off, news came over the
weekend that Tony Blair’s eminence grise and former press sec, Alastair Campbell, will be returning
to play a significant role in Labour’s election campaign. “The no-nonsense operator is being recalled
to provide the party with a hard-hitting edge to counter the Tories bringing in
Australian election chief, Lynton Crosby,” The Guardian said.
Campbell takes no prisoners. Does Crosby really want to go on a suicide
mission? Perhaps he might like to stay
in the Godzone.