Lynton Crosby

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Lynton Crosby

Lynton Keith Crosby AO (born 1957 in Kadina, South Australia)[1][2] 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".[1][3]

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 2002 he set up a consulting firm, the Crosby Textor Group, with Australian pollster Mark Textor. Crosby Textor has since run over 250 campaigns in 57 countries.[4]

In 2005 he was awarded the Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).[5]

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.[6] He was later hired to run the London Mayoral Campaign in 2008 increasing the Conservative first preference votes from 29% to 43%[7] 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.[8][9]

In March 2009 it was announced that Crosby would direct the Europe-wide Libertas campaign for the June 2009 European Parliament elections.[10] Despite running 600 candidates, the movement only managed to get one MEP elected, and folded shortly after.[11]

On 18 November 2012 Lynton Crosby was appointed as a campaign consultant by the British Conservative Party for the 2015 General Election.[6]

In 2015, Crosby was brought in to help the Conservative Party of Canada which was in a tight three way race. Crosby's tactics, known as the "dead cat" strategy and "dog whistle politics" backfired. As a result, on October 19, 2015 the Canadian people ousted the Conservatives and elected an unexpected Liberal majority.[12][13] The Liberal Party's increase of 150 seats from the previous election was the largest-ever numerical increase by a party in a Canadian election.[14]

Early life and career

Crosby grew up in a rural area of South Australia, where his father worked as a farmer and an arts and crafts shop owner.[15] He earned a degree in economics from the University of Adelaide.[15]

Political career


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 1982, Crosby ran for the Liberals in the Norwood district in the South Australian legislature, but was defeated.[15] He later joked that "I turned a marginal Labour seat into a safe Labour seat after campaigning there."[15]

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.

In November 2012 Crosby sued the Australian Defence Secretary Mike Kelly for libel for alleging on Twitter that Crosby had used push polling.[16]

United Kingdom

Crosby managed the Conservative Party's 2005 general election campaign in the United Kingdom, but was unable to help Michael Howard defeat Tony Blair.[15] During Crosby's time as campaign manager, the Conservative used attention grabbing slogans such as "It’s Not Racist to Impose Limits on Immigration" and "How Would You Feel if a Bloke on Early Release Attacked Your Daughter?" [15]

Crosby 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.[17] The Daily Mail alleged that Crosby had urged Johnson to focus his campaign on traditional Tory voters instead of "fucking Muslims," but Crosby later said through a spokesperson that he had no memory of using that phrasing.[15]

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.[18] 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."[18]

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.[19] This revelation came in papers released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Intellectual Property Office.[19]

New Zealand

According to investigative journalist Nicky Hager, Crosby is also an adviser to the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key.[20]

Sri Lanka

During the August 2015 Sri Lankan parliamentary election, Crosby was an advisor to incumbent prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose United National Front captured a plurality of seats and formed a governing coalition along with president Maithripala Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party.[21] The campaign featured widespread adverts that contrasted "good governance" offered by the incumbent prime minister with the "jungle law" of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose ten year rule was marked by family corruption and strident nationalism after the 2009 defeat of the Tamil Tigers.[21]


In early September 2015, partway through the 2015 Canadian federal election, Crosby was brought on as a campaign strategist for incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative party fell to third place in the polls, behind both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party.[22][23] Crosby's decision to bring the issue of a small group of Muslim woman refusing to remove their niqab when swearing the Canadian oath of citizenship, made the niqab one of the key issues of the campaign and reversed sliding poll numbers for the Conservatives, especially in Quebec, where their polling numbers rose at the expense of the NDP.[24][25][26] However, four days before the election, ThinkPol reported that Crosby had left the Harper campaign, whose polling numbers had once again fallen behind those of Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party, which used more inclusive messaging.[23] The Liberals went on to win an unexpected majority government in a "stunning rout" of what many Canadians saw as Mr. Harper’s heavy-handed style. A style which was reinforced by Crosby's tactics identified in the Canadian publication, Macleans, as the "dead cat" strategy and "dog whistle politics".[12][13] Crosby's tactics backfired. As a result, on October 19, 2015 the Canadian people ousted the Conservatives and elected an unexpected Liberal majority.[12][13] The Liberal Party's increase of 148 seats from the previous election was the largest-ever numerical increase by a party in a Canadian election.[27]


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.[1] To find such issues, Crosby's business partner Mark Textor runs focus groups to find which groups to target with what questions.[28] Crosby is said to run a tight ship, focus on simple messages, target marginal constituencies and use lots of polls.[3]

In a 2013 article for the Daily Telegraph written by former client Boris Johnson, the current London mayor said one of Crosby's tactics when losing an argument and having the facts against you was to do the equivalent of "throwing a dead cat on the table": bring up an issue you want to talk about that draws widespread attention from the populace, forcing opponents to also talk about your new issue instead of the previous issue.[24]

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".[29]

Personal life

Crosby is married to his wife Dawn, with whom he has lived in the United Kingdom for over a decade.[15] Crosby is a grandfather.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Brian Wheeler (16 November 2004). "Howard's wizard of Oz". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2 May 2008. 
  2. ^ Watt, Nicholas (28 January 2005). "The Guardian profile: Lynton Crosby". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Pass notes No 3,171: Lynton Crosby". The Guardian. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "Crosby Textor Group". 
  5. ^ "Lynton Crosby Where am I Now - University of Adelaide" (PDF). 
  6. ^ a b "Tories hire Boris Johnson's strategist Lynton Crosby". BBC. 18 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "BBC London Mayoral Election Results, 2008". 
  8. ^ "Boris Johnson Campaign Victory 2012". 
  9. ^ "BBC London Mayoral Election Results, 2012". 
  10. ^ Australian strategist to lead Libertas campaign. Irish Times, 24 March 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
  11. ^ Crosbie, Judith. "Libertas's Ganley concedes defeat in Irish contest". Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  12. ^ a b c Austen, Ian (19 October 2015). "Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party Prevail With Stunning Rout in Canada". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c Soloman, Evan. "The dead cat on the 2015 campaign trail". Retrieved 2015-10-20. 
  14. ^ "October 19, 2015 Election Results by Elections Canada. The independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums.". 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tu Thanh Ha (11 September 2015). "Who is Lynton Crosby, the ‘master of dark arts’ now behind Harper’s campaign?". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  16. ^ Boffey, Daniel (12 May 2013). "David Cameron's head of strategy sues Australian minister for libel". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Oliver, Jonathan; Oakeshott, Isabel (4 May 2008). "Onward Tory soldiers". The Times (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  18. ^ a b 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. 
  19. ^ a b Doward, Jamie (6 September 2014). "Conservative election guru Lynton Crosby lobbied minister over tobacco". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Hager, Nicky (3 June 2009). ""Crosby v Hager": defamation proceedings used as a political weapon". Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Crabtree, James (18 August 2015). "New era for Sri Lanka as Rajapaksa loses". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  22. ^ Payton, Laura (10 September 2015). "For campaign magic, Harper turns to a wizard from Oz". Maclean's. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Dimshaw, Fram (15 October 2015). "Lynton Crosby ditches Harper's flailing campaign". National Observer. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  24. ^ a b Solomon, Evan (2 October 2015). "The dead cat on the 2015 campaign trail". Maclean's. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  25. ^ Hamilton, Graeme (8 October 2015). "Conservatives surging in Quebec as NDP fades over niqab issue". National Post. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  26. ^ Muise, Monique (14 October 2015). "Economy, not niqab, top of mind for voters on election day: Ipsos poll". Global News. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  27. ^ "October 19, 2015 Election Results by Elections Canada. The independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums.". 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ Lees-Marshment, Jennifer (2009). Political marketing: principles and applications (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. p. 240. ISBN 041543128X. 

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