Giles Marshall 12.48pm
The Tories have had a dreadful week, and on some of the thinnest stories, that the search for who to blame and, more importantly, who their white knight in shining armour might be, are on apace.
Don’t imagine that this is a search among elected representatives. They are now so poorly perceived that they are but mere stooges. The search is about rooting out those favourite villains of the political piece across the ages - the advisers! And that just happens to be where the white knight lies too.
The history of punishing the adviser for doing the will of the master has had some prominent victims over the years.
Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIII’s most effective minister, enforcing his master’s will and authority with talent and success. Yet he made enemies, and went to the block in 1540 while the bloated king carried on with his capricious reign.
No-one is suggesting current villainous advisers will head to the block, but they are certainly the recipients of similar invectives as dogged the late Thomas Cromwell. The Sun has helpfully identified the masters of menace behind the Tories’ succession of disasters as communication strategists Craig Oliver and Andrew Cooper, with a particularly sinister walk-on part for Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who received more than just a mention in a recent piece for the Telegraph by James Kirkup that sported the headline, “The evil counsel of Sir Jeremy Heywood”.
And where is this White Knight? He emerges in the shape of the man many Tories are begging to run the next election campaign: feisty Australian Lynton Crosby. The Spectator’s James Forsyth is his principal cheerleader, but there are plenty who agree that in Mr Crosby lies electoral salvation.
Why? Because he was Boris Johnson’s mayoral campaign manager and used to do pretty well for the Australian Liberal Party (don’t worry - they’re the rightists Down Under).
Mr Crosby’s services apparently come at a hefty price - would he really be worth it? Almost certainly not. He was fine marketing an amusing political buffoon against a tired, disliked old has-been. However, his record in getting Tories returned to government in the UK is rather less secure.
He was, after all, the man who famously made Michael Howard’s campaign one of the nastiest in recent memory, but signally failed to get Howard himself anywhere near Number 10. One of his pitches was: “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration”. Perhaps not for some, but when the BNP use the issue to whip up support it pretty well as good as is. All this in an election year that was Tony Blair’s weakest, following the disaster of the Iraq war.
Many Tories like Mr Crosby because he plays as negative as you want, and he swings heftily rightwards. He’d certainly bring focus to any election campaign, but whether it is the right sort of focus, and whether it leads to any sort of national electoral success - those are two serious questions that his career leaves hanging.
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