Lynton Keith Crosby AO (born 1957 in Kadina, South Australia) is an Australian political strategist who has been described as a "master of the dark political arts," "the Wizard of Oz," "the Australian Karl Rove," and "one of the most powerful and influential figures in the (Australian) nation".
In the 1980s Crosby advised the Liberal Party of Australia, becoming the political organisation's Deputy Federal Director in 1994 and then Federal Director in 1997, a position he held until 2002. During this time he masterminded successful General Election victories for the former Australian prime minister, John Howard in 1998 and 2001.
In 2005 Crosby managed the Conservative Party's unsuccessful General Election campaign in the United Kingdom securing 33 additional seats, the party's first net gain of seats from the Labour Party in 13 years. He was later hired to run the London Mayoral Campaign in 2008 increasing the Conservative first preference votes from 29% to 43% and electing Boris Johnson as Mayor of London. This success was repeated in 2012 where Boris Johnson was re-elected with 44% of the first preference votes.
He holds a degree in economics from the University of Adelaide and in 2005 was awarded the Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).
Crosby started his career in 1976 as a market analyst with Golden Fleece Petroleum. He then moved into politics as a research assistant in 1978 for Senator Baden Teague. In 1980 Crosby became Executive Assistant to the Hon. Harold Allison, then Minister of Education & Aboriginal Affairs. Crosby became Executive Assistant to the Hon. Martin Cameron MLC in 1992, then Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Legislative Council. Between 1986 and 1991 Crosby held a series of corporate affairs positions in the Australian private sector.
In 1991 Crosby became State Director for the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia, and in 1994 the Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia, serving under then Federal Director Andrew Robb, until replacing him as Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia in May 1997. Crosby set up "Crosby|Textor" with Mark Textor in 2002.
Crosby served as campaign director in 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2004 elections. In 1998, the government won with marginal seats (swing seats) targeted by Crosby. The election saw the smallest two party preferred margin win since 1949 estimates, on 49.02 percent. By the time of his departure, the Liberal party was out of power in every state and territory and lost power federally soon afterwards.
Crosby was involved in setting up CT Financial, an investor relations and financial communications specialist consultancy, in 2006.
Crosby managed the Conservative Party's 2005 general election campaign in the United Kingdom, and was also appointed to run (the successful) Conservative Boris Johnson's London 2008 Mayoral election campaign, at a cost to the party of £140,000 for four months of work.
In July 2013, following the government's rejection of a plan to remove branding from cigarette packets, British prime minister David Cameron was urged by Liberal Democrat members of the governing Coalition to sack Crosby as his chief election strategist because of Crosby's connection to the tobacco industry. Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow was quoted as saying: "Lynton Crosby cannot remain at the heart of government while he is also serving the interests of the tobacco industry. If he does not go the prime minister should sack him."
In 2014, it was revealed that having been hired in 2012 by Philip Morris International, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Crosby lobbied Lord Marland, then parliamentary undersecretary for intellectual property and a former Conservative party treasurer, to oppose the introduction of plain packaging on cigarettes. This revelation came in papers released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Intellectual Property Office.
Crosby is described as favouring what is called a wedge strategy, whereby the party he advises introduces a divisive or controversial social issue into a campaign, aligning its own stance with the dissenting faction of its opponent party, with the goal of causing vitriolic debate inside the opposing party, defection of its supporters, and the legitimising of sentiment which had previously been considered inappropriate. This is also described as "below the radar" campaigning, with the targeting of marginal constituencies with highly localised campaigning, latching on to local issues and personalities. To find such issues, Crosby's business partner Mark Textor runs focus groups to find which groups to target with what questions. Crosby is said to run a tight ship, focus on simple messages, target marginal constituencies and use lots of polls.
His tactics have included:
- During the 2001 Australian federal elections, Howard government ministers falsely claimed that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia, and Howard, in the final days of the campaign, launched a slogan that later grew notorious: "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come".
- Brian Wheeler (16 November 2004). "Howard's wizard of Oz". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2 May 2008.
- Watt, Nicholas (28 January 2005). "The Guardian profile: Lynton Crosby". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Pass notes No 3,171: Lynton Crosby". The Guardian. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- "Tories hire Boris Johnson's strategist Lynton Crosby". BBC. 18 November 2012.
- "Crosby Textor Group".
- "BBC London Mayoral Election Results, 2008".
- "Boris Johnson Campaign Victory 2012".
- "BBC London Mayoral Election Results, 2012".
- Australian strategist to lead Libertas campaign. Irish Times, 24 March 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
- "Lynton Crosby Where am I Now - University of Adelaide".
- Boffey, Daniel (12 May 2013). "David Cameron's head of strategy sues Australian minister for libel". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
- Oliver, Jonathan; Oakeshott, Isabel (4 May 2008). "Onward Tory soldiers". The Times (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- Toby Helm; Jamie Doward (13 July 2013). "David Cameron told to sack strategy chief over link to tobacco giants". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Doward, Jamie (6 September 2014). "Conservative election guru Lynton Crosby lobbied minister over tobacco". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- Julian Glover (2 May 2008). "The Jeeves to Johnson's Bertie Wooster: the man who may have got him elected". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
- Lees-Marshment, Jennifer (2009). Political marketing: principles and applications (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. p. 240. ISBN 041543128X.