Why should Lynton Crosby get a knighthood? The Sunday Times today reports that the Conservatives’ election chief is in line for an honour, which has provoked fury from democracy campaigners and, naturally, those aligned with the parties he helped to humiliate in May.
The fury of the Labourites is quite easy to understand, and not just because it is miserable seeing the guy who was instrumental to a surprise election victory that many around Ed Miliband thought was theirs being honoured. It’s also because many of them will complain that he is a negative force in politics, someone who isn’t averse to flinging a dead cat on the table at a moment’s notice when the chips are down. This, of course, ignores Labour’s own negative campaign tactics that they hoped would win them an election, like the below:
But the fact is that Lynton Crosby did help the Tories win an absolutely stunning election victory. Whether or not he does receive a knighthood does not change this fact, which some Labourites are still painfully coming to terms with and others are trying to ignore altogether, preferring internecine party warfare as a distraction.
He turned the party that actually managed to produce posters with pretty blossom and meaningless phrases on them before the 2010 election into a disciplined force with a message that reached the voters they needed in order to win that surprise majority. If he had achieved the same sort of feat in business, or if he had been a civil servant delivering a seemingly impossible project to a higher standard than anyone had expected, then no-one would question Crosby’s knighthood.
The difference between the businessman, the civil servant and Lynton Crosby the political mastermind is that Lynton Crosby would presumably be receiving a knighthood ‘for political service’ - which was presumably the reason Labour’s election strategist Spencer Livermore was handed a peerage in the Dissolution Honours earlier this year. But it’s that word, ‘political service’, that attracts such derision, because politics isn’t noble or worth rewarding.
Politics is full of egotists, cheeky ministers trying to sneak poor performances in their departments past the press, sly strategists who want to win elections, and gossipy skullduggery in the bars of Westminster. It is also the way you get things done. If you want to argue endlessly for the perfect, become a campaigner. But ultimately, it is the politicians who are able to make things happen, even if they’re the wrong things, or the imperfect things, or things that involve deals and alliances and networking.
Many politicians and would-be politicians are quite obviously guilty of running down politics by committing crimes when in office, breaking their promises, or bullying rivals. But many more who are innocent and well-meaning nevertheless contribute to the toxicity of politics by speaking endlessly of ‘taking the politics out’ of decisions by handing as many policies as possible over to quangos, even though politicians are paid by the public to be better informed and to make decisions on our behalf. When politicians lose confidence in politics, no-one is defending it. And then no wonder a knighthood to the man who helped win an election looks unattractive.