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. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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What is the EU customs union and will Brexit make us leave?

International trade secretary Liam Fox's job makes more sense if we leave the customs union. 

Brexiteers and Remoaners alike have spent the winter months talking of leaving the "customs union", and how this should be weighed up against the benefits of controlling immigration. But what does it actually mean, and how is it different from the EU single market?

Imagine a medieval town, with a busy marketplace where traders are buying and selling wares. Now imagine that the town is also protected by a city wall, with guards ready to slap charges on any outside traders who want to come in. That's how the customs union works.  

In essence, a customs union is an agreement between countries not to impose tariffs on imports from within the club, and at the same time impose common tariffs on goods coming in from outsiders. In other words, the countries decide to trade collectively with each other, and bargain collectively with everyone else. 

The EU isn't the only customs union, or even the first in Europe. In the 19th century, German-speaking states organised the Zollverein, or German Customs Union, which in turn paved the way for the unification of Germany. Other customs unions today include the Eurasian Economic Union of central Asian states and Russia. The EU also has a customs union with Turkey.

What is special about the EU customs union is the level of co-operation, with member states sharing commercial policies, and the size. So how would leaving it affect the UK post-Brexit?

The EU customs union in practice

The EU, acting on behalf of the UK and other member states, has negotiated trade deals with countries around the world which take years to complete. The EU is still mired in talks to try to pull off the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US, and a similar EU-Japan trade deal. These two deals alone would cover a third of all EU trade.

The point of these deals is to make it easier for the EU's exporters to sell abroad, keep imports relatively cheap and at the same time protect the member states' own businesses and consumers as much as possible. 

The rules of the customs union require member states to let the EU negotiate on their behalf, rather than trying to cut their own deals. In theory, if the UK walks away from the customs union, we walk away from all these trade deals, but we also get a chance to strike our own. 

What are the UK's options?

The UK could perhaps come to an agreement with the EU where it continues to remain inside the customs union. But some analysts believe that door has already shut. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to appoint Liam Fox, the Brexiteer, as the secretary of state for international trade. Why would she appoint him, so the logic goes, if there were no international trade deals to talk about? And Fox can only do this if the UK is outside the customs union. 

(Conversely, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg argues May will realise the customs union is too valuable and Fox will be gone within two years).

Fox has himself said the UK should leave the customs union but later seemed to backtrack, saying it is "important to have continuity in trade".

If the UK does leave the customs union, it will have the freedom to negotiate, but will it fare better or worse than the EU bloc?

On the one hand, the UK, as a single voice, can make speedy decisions, whereas the EU has a lengthy consultative process (the Belgian region of Wallonia recently blocked the entire EU-Canada trade deal). Incoming US President Donald Trump has already said he will try to come to a deal quickly

On the other, the UK economy is far smaller, and trade negotiators may discover they have far less leverage acting alone. 

Unintended consequences

There is also the question of the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation, which is currently governed by its membership of the customs union. According to the Institute for Government: “Many countries will want to be clear about the UK’s membership of the WTO before they open negotiations.”

And then there is the question of policing trade outside of the customs union. For example, if it was significantly cheaper to import goods from China into Ireland, a customs union member, than Northern Ireland, a smuggling network might emerge.

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.