Will Lynton Crosby clear up Downing Street's cluttered lines of command?
By Paul Goodman
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Martin Rowson's Guardian cartoon this morning shows Lynton Crosby dumping a bucket of ordure over David Cameron's head.
A more accurate illustration would have shown much of Fleet Street empyting that same bucket on Mr Crosby's head.
- "Dark arts master" - Daily Mail
- I was framed by Crosby as "an anti-semitic tax dodger" - Ken Livingstone, The Guardian
- The “rottweiler-in-chief from down under" - The Times (copyright, Nick Clegg)
- "A disastrous signing for the Tories" - Ian Birrell, the Independent
- "Mr Crosby, an Australian" - Daily Telegraph
Mr Crosby will doubtless take all this with the merry spirit in which it was intended, since it is very obviously a few watercolours short of the full palette.
It also steers one to ask "Is he right for the job?" rather than the real question "What job will he actually be doing - and can he clear up Downing Street's cluttered lines of command?"
My view as previously stated is that not all Prime Ministers have needed political strategists, but if Mr Cameron wants one Mr Crosby has little or no competition.
And if he wants one, as he does, that person must have complete authority and be at the centre of events. How will Mr Crosby do that if he's based at CCHQ, not Number 10? I gather:
- The test will be if he has, as he surely will do, a Downing Street pass (these are less readily available than one might imagine, even to very senior staff).
- However, he may not have a desk in Downing Street (indeed, he may not want one).
- This won't matter if key decisions are taken over several hours, with many of them being taken after phone conversations.
- It would obviously matter if these decisions were taken in small meetings, and those l meetings were frequent, but this isn't the case.
- It isn't clear yet what the deal is in relation to polling. Andrew Cooper, the Head of Strategy, has controlled it to date. Mr Crosby is reported to want to take it over.
It also isn't clear how the relationship between Mr Cooper, who works for the Government as a whole, and Mr Crosby will work. Downing Street has denied claims that Mr Cooper will leave.
Tory sources are enthusiastic about the arrival of Crosby. One told me: "Whatever one thinks of the politics of the 2005 campaign, it was the best-managed one I've ever been involved in."