Cast your minds back to the 2005 General Election. Although leading the polls, Tone and his pals had had their popularity diminished significantly by the needless and bloody adventure in Iraq, and there were opportunities for both Tories and Lib Dems to make gains. But for Michael Howard and his pals, that was until their credibility was shot apart by their choice of campaign chief.
Who're youse looking at, bladdy Pom?!?
Because Howard had decided to follow his antipodean namesake John and hire Lynton Crosby, who duly brought along his dog whistle to taint the Tory Party and blunt their edge. They did indeed make gains, but Tone was still able to point to a significant majority. The “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” slogan had become an object of ridicule. Crosby did not return for 2010.
But now Lynton Crosby is back, and will mastermind the Tories’ next General Election campaign. This has been hailed by the terminally clueless Tim Montgomerie of ConHome as “Great News”, but this is one of those occasions on which Monty fails to engage brain before broadcasting. There are very good reasons why a Crosby campaign could, and probably will, backfire spectacularly on the Tories.
I'm sorry, I haven't a clue
And the single most significant of those reasons was splashed over the front page of today’s Mail on Sunday, where – uncharacteristically – the paper is complaining about someone slagging off followers of The Prophet (“how dare someone else demonise Muslims? That’s our business”). The someone is Crosby, who told Bozza during the London Mayoral campaign to forget “f***ing Muslims”.
It is entirely in the Crosby character to do this, and not even the dissembly of Grant “Spiv” Shapps can deflect attention from it. It was, after all, Crosby who put the words “We will decide who comes to this country” into John Howard’s mouth, as well as the pretence that only his party had done anything to better the lot of Australians, while the opposition was smeared as a bunch of inept whingers.
Sadly for the Tories, though, the kind of voters the party needs to reach out to in order to secure a majority next time round are likely to be put off by anti-immigration and Islamophobic ranting. It will be like the problem for the Republicans in the USA: groups like Latinos and Asian Americans should be a natural part of their constituency, given as they are to hard work and getting on.
But the GOP sending out the signal that their membership hates them means they run in the direction of away – and straight into the arms of the Democrats. Who just won the Presidential contest, Tory people? Young Dave and his jolly good chaps need those votes. The likes of Crosby will alienate them. And in the meantime, Mil the Younger will welcome them with his friendly smile – to the Labour Party.
It’s not rocket science. But it’s still too difficult for many Tories to comprehend.