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 web editor of the New Statesman.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.