The British election is probably
just over a month away, and all the Pommy pundits seem to believe that
the Conservative Party is back in the running – thanks to the work of
former Liberal Party federal director Lynton Crosby.

Crosby is
big in Britain. Run a Google News search on him and his name turns up
everywhere – from profiles in the broadsheets to gossip in Private Eye.
He and pollster Mark Textor are making their mark. “If Lynton Crosby
were a company, I’d buy shares”, declares columnist Anne Robinson in
the UK Daily Telegraph.

Matthew Parris, The Times’ sketch writer and perhaps the world’s only out, gay, llama breeding, former conservative parliamentarian, wrote in The Spectator
about the momentum Crosby is building up for the Tories. “Rob Tony
Blair of his reputation of winning and you have robbed him of
everything”, Parris said. After all, Blair hasn’t got much of a
reputation left otherwise.

Parris told how Crosby’s tactics of
jumping from subject to subject – immigration, tax, immigration again,
health, law and order – have left Blair running to keep up. “By giving
an impression of besting Blair, the Tories have, I concede, only
reached first base,” he wrote. “But my hunch is that in this game this
time first base is closer to home base than it may appear”.

Maybe. But what if it goes wrong? The Guardian headlined an article on
Crosby: “In Australia he’s called ruthless and grubby but he helped to
win four elections.” Blair’s key tactician, Alan Milburn, has been at
pains to question Crosby’s tactics. He’s said Crosby and Textor have a “dodgy track record and reputation” and called the pair a “fly by night operation”.

All of which has sparked some fascinating thinking out loud from Peter Brent at the Mumble Politics site here in Australia.

“Lynton Crosby,” Brent says, “should do well out of the Tory campaign.
They’ll most likely get a swing which will, as happens with campaign
managers, be interpreted as evidence of Lynton’s genius…”

“But
will the Tories find this John Howard dog-whistle stuff returning to
haunt them? It’s one thing to do it and succeed: winners are grinners…
But if the Tories lose, the court of public opinion will be seen to
have repudiated ‘grubby politics’ and there might be some harsh
judgment. Crosby can always bugger off back to Australia, where a
fawning media still treats him as a hero… but poor [Conservative
leader] Michael Howard will remain in England.”

He’s got a point. Read it all on Mumble Politics here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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