Alice Thomson

‘The Tories must be ruthless’

In his first interview since the election, Lynton Crosby tells Alice Thomson what he has enjoyed about living in Britain and running Michael Howard’s campaign

In his first interview since the election, Lynton Crosby tells Alice Thomson what he has enjoyed about living in Britain and running Michael Howard’s campaign

He is the Wizard of Oz. During the election campaign he used to stand behind the curtains at press conferences directing operations. He never talked to journalists and no one ever saw him on television but everyone assumed that the Tories’ Australian campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, was pulling all the levers. He was credited with many great and evil powers, with revitalising the Tory party, with demonising asylum-seekers, with forcing Gordon Brown to hold hands with Tony Blair. All three parties were afraid of him.

He certainly showed the Tory lions, scarecrows and tin men that they had a brain, and helped them to be brave. The party proved it had a heart again when it mourned the loss of Michael Howard (Dorothy), who decided to go back to Kansas. But was Crosby really a wizard, or was he just a backroom boy? It’s almost impossible to find him: he hates giving interviews, he never answers his mobile phone, and he’s returning to Australia this week.

Finally I receive a message: ‘Lynton, 3.30 p.m., 51 Buckingham Gate.’ He meets me in the foyer of a discrete hotel, puts his riding boots on the chair and orders mint tea (not so Aussie after all, even if he does say ‘Thanks, mate’).

‘I am no wizard,’ he explains. ‘My job is to support the leader. Alastair Campbell likes everyone to think he’s got mysterious powers, but to me the leader is boss. I was just here for assistance and advice.’ His detractors hold him responsible for raising issues such as gypsies, abortion and yobs. ‘Most people don’t have a clue about my ideas,’ he says. ‘I’m at the more moderate end of the spectrum.’

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