David Cameron appoints Lynton Crosby amid row over "racist" remark

The Prime Minister has appointed the election strategist who guided Boris Johnson to victory to his own team.

David Cameron has appointed Lynton Crosby, the man behind Boris Johnson's successful reelection campaign in London, to be his general election strategist. The Sunday Times (£) reports that he will start working for the PM part-time in January before "going full-time in the run-up to the election" (it doesn't say when exactly).

Crosby is apparently known as the "Wizard of Oz", because of his nationality and his election successes. But he's also known for his "willingness to campaign on the issue of immigration", as Andrew Gimson's profile of Crosby in the New Statesman last week reported. Gimson wrote:

Many on the left would take the appointment of this rough-tongued Australian as proof that the Conservatives had “lurched to the right”... Placing him in charge of the Tory machine would be treated as confirmation of a general coarsening, with the leadership adopting a narrow, retrograde and ultimately hopeless strategy of appealing to white-van man.

But will Crosby's tactics work nationwide? He was involved in Michael Howard's 2005 campaign, including the heavy focus on immigration (remember "are you thinking what we're thinking?") but Tony Blair successfully denigrated Howard for "exploiting people's fears" and the rest is painful Tory history. According to Gimson, "Crosby denied after the campaign that he had used a 'dog whistle' to send surreptitious messages: 'It was more like a foghorn.'"

Inspite of that, Boris Johnson reportedly told Cameron and Osborne to do anything possible to get Crosby on the 2015 election campaign: “Push the boat out, break the piggy bank, kill the fatted calf.” It would seem they have done so.

What has not been reported though, is just how much they have delved into the piggy bank. Gimson again:

If Crosby is to come and work again for the Tories, he wants to be paid a huge sum of money, to compensate him for the lucrative lobbying work he would otherwise be doing. He also insists on complete control of the campaign, including the polling that will help to inform it.

Look out for issues of command and control over other elements of the party and No 10 operation, then, if Crosby has indeed been granted his wishes before coming on board.

Aside from the Australian's so-called past "dog whistle" tactics, he is today accused by the Mail on Sunday of having made "racist remarks" about Muslims during Boris's campaign.

According to a source, Mr Crosby said Mr Johnson should concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’. The source added: ‘He definitely used that phrase’ and said: ‘Lynton’s view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time –  and he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive.’

In a statement last night a spokesman for Mr Crosby said he had ‘absolutely no recollection’ of using the term.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234565/PMs-new-fixer-racist-rant-Muslims-Foul-mouthed-abuse-campaign-chief-revealed-lands-Tory-post.html#ixzz2CZ6XHzTM
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According to a source, Mr Crosby said Mr Johnson should concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’. The source added: ‘He definitely used that phrase’ and said: ‘Lynton’s view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time –  and he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive.’

In a statement last night a spokesman for Mr Crosby said he had ‘absolutely no recollection’ of using the term.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234565/PMs-new-fixer-racist-rant-Muslims-Foul-mouthed-abuse-campaign-chief-revealed-lands-Tory-post.html#ixzz2CZ6XHzTM
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

According to a source, Mr Crosby said Mr Johnson should concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’. The source added: ‘He definitely used that phrase’ and said: ‘Lynton’s view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time –  and he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive.’

In a statement last night a spokesman for Mr Crosby said he had ‘absolutely no recollection’ of using the term.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234565/PMs-new-fixer-racist-rant-Muslims-Foul-mouthed-abuse-campaign-chief-revealed-lands-Tory-post.html#ixzz2CZ6XHzTM
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

According to a source, Mr Crosby said Mr Johnson should concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’. The source added: ‘He definitely used that phrase’ and said: ‘Lynton’s view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time –  and he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive.’

In a statement last night a spokesman for Mr Crosby said he had ‘absolutely no recollection’ of using the term.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234565/PMs-new-fixer-racist-rant-Muslims-Foul-mouthed-abuse-campaign-chief-revealed-lands-Tory-post.html#ixzz2CZ6XHzTM
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Simon Walters reports:

According to a source, Mr Crosby said Mr Johnson should concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’. The source added: ‘He definitely used that phrase’ and said: ‘Lynton’s view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time – and he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive.’

In a statement last night a spokesman for Mr Crosby said he had ‘absolutely no recollection’ of using the term.

Keen to trouble-make for Cameron as ever, the MoS has even splashed on the story:

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular incident, Crosby's reputation for "playing the race card" seems likely to haunt him as he starts work on the mammoth task of securing a Conservative majority for Cameron in 2015 - not quite what DC will have had in mind when appointing him, I'm sure.

David Cameron. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.