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Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson: I am now about to libel Lynton Crosby

Anyone who believed a lot of the press comment about Lynton Crosby would find the man himself gravely disappointing. To judge by the cuttings, you might think that he was a cross between Ned Kelly, a Barry Humphries character and Crocodile Dundee. That is an entire distortion. I am now about to libel him, because any court in Australia would agree that calling someone "charming and sophisticated" is highly defamatory: virtually a synonym for pommie poofter, itself a tautology. But Lynton is charming, sophisticated, shrewd and thoughtful, just like his former boss, John Howard, who is one of the greatest men of our time.

Like Mr Howard, Lynton is tough. No-one would want to be up in front of him on a charge. But he leads by clarity and natural authority, not by shouting and bawling. Election campaigns are stressful affairs, especially when there is little hope of winning, as with the Tories in 2005. Under Lynton's direction, Central Office was a happy ship as well as a taut one. He won affection as well as respect.

Lynton is not an ideologue. He will not arrive  with his own agenda. He will ask the existing team what they want to do and then show them how to turn that into an election campaign. With Boris Johnson in 2008, there was one difference. The candidate seemed to have no idea what he wanted to do. So Messrs Cameron and Osborne sent for Lynton, to turn a bumble of amiable incoherence into a successful mayoral candidate. (Not even Lynton could make him a grateful one.)

Nor is Lynton Crosby a self-publicist. He would agree with that wise Tory official, Michael Fraser - whom Rab Butler described as "the greatest civil servant the party ever had" - that the back-room boys should stay in the back room. In modern media conditions, that will not be easy, but he will not be using the Tory party to promote himself.

His job is to turn strategy into tactics. As for the strategy, that will be determined by a shadowy, secretive figure, another veteran of the 2005 campaign: David Cameron.

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Leadership by clarity and authority: that might almost tempt Justin Welby into the deadly sin of envy - or at least as far as envying the Pope. The Archbishop-elect possesses both those qualities, in excelsis - but how can he persuade his Church to take any notice? "The essence of religion is authority and obedience" wrote Newman. So who had the daft idea of making the C of E democratic?

Although I thought that the laity should have fallen into line behind their leaders - otherwise you might conclude that the Church of England was a Protestant body - the female faction did their cause no favours. Most of their spokesmen who found their way to the media went in for hysterically-exaggerated language. We were told that the Church had just committed suicide. Really? It has survived for 2,000 years without female prelates. Are we to believe that all the churches will be empty this Sunday: that no-one will be singing a Christmas carol this year?

Whenever I switched on the radio, there was a thoughtful, concerned female Christian who sounded as she had scrutinised her conscience and agonised before voting "no" - up against a harridan who made Harriet Harman sound like Portia, and who did not sound like a carol singer.

So what should happen next? What about a committee, as small as is possible while still carrying weight, to try to resolve matters - plus an agreement that public discussion should be kept to a minimum. There are other issues. This is a time of year when unbelievers should envy Christians - that would not be a sin. In the darkness of midwinter, the Church can proclaim a great light; in the midst of suffering and misery, it can offer hope and redemption. If the C of E rejects all that for futile introspection, it is adding to the canon of deadly sins.

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Sin and redemption: although Britain is not a theocracy, we generally assume that those in prison have committed one and are in need of the other - otherwise what are they doing behind bars? So why is Sergeant Danny Nightingale in gaol? Almost everyone who has studied the case cannot understand the sentence. Could someone really forget that they had a pistol in the house? Yes they could, if they had served in the Special Forces, where firearms are commonplace, and if they had suffered from a fever which affected their brain.

Above the level of barbarism, any penal system must hold open the possibility of mercy, albeit in exceptional cases. This is one such. This is an exceptional man, who is being foully treated by his country, which he has served so well. Scrutinising consciences; Sergeant Nightingale should be on all our consciences.

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"Quelle chute", said Clemenceau when he heard that Paderewski had become President of Poland. One feels something similar about Tony Hall, giving up Covent Garden to run the BBC.  Let us hope that he can impose management structures, restore morale - and set out to be remembered for inspiring creativity.


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