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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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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