Sir Lynton Crosby
Lynton Keith Crosby
23 August 1956
|Alma mater||University of Adelaide|
|Political party||Liberal Party of Australia|
Crosby has been described as a "master of the dark political arts", "the Wizard of Oz", and "the Australian Karl Rove". In 2002, he was called "one of the most powerful and influential figures in the nation" by The Age.
After graduating from the University of Adelaide, Crosby first became involved in politics with the Liberal Party of Australia, eventually being appointed federal director of the party in 1997. He oversaw the party's successful campaigns at the 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2004 federal elections, which made the Howard Government Australia's second-longest serving federal government. In 2002, Crosby left his formal position in the party to establish a consulting firm, the Crosby Textor Group.
Crosby first ventured into overseas politics at the 2005 United Kingdom general election, where he managed the Conservative Party's unsuccessful campaign. He has since also run Conservative campaigns for the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections, as well as the 2015 general election, all of which resulted in victories for the party. His campaign was not successful for the 2016 London mayoral election (which was won by the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan) and the 2017 general election in which the Conservatives remained the largest party but lost 13 seats and their parliamentary majority.
Outside of Australia and the UK, Crosby has also served as an advisor for parties in Canada, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka. At the 2009 European Parliament elections, Crosby acted as a consultant for Libertas, a pan-European party.
Early life and career
Crosby was born in Kadina, South Australia, and grew up in a rural area of the state, where his father Dudley Crosby worked as a cereal farmer and an arts and crafts shop-owner. He studied economics at the University of Adelaide.
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 Harold Allison, then Minister of Education and Aboriginal Affairs. Crosby became executive assistant to Martin Cameron in 1992, then Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Legislative Council. Between 1986 and 1991 Crosby held a number of corporate affairs positions in the Australian private sector.
At the 1982 South Australian election Crosby unsuccessfully ran for the Liberals in the House of Assembly seat of Norwood. Suffering a 9.2 percent two-party swing compared to the statewide swing of 5.9 percent, he later joked that he "turned a marginal Labor seat into a safe Labor seat after campaigning there."
In 1991, Crosby became state director for the Queensland division of the Liberal Party of Australia, and in 1994 the party's deputy federal director. He served under federal director Andrew Robb, until replacing him as federal director of the Liberal Party in May 1997. Crosby served as campaign director for the party at the 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2004 federal 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.
In 2002, Crosby established an election consulting firm, the Crosby Textor Group, with an associate, Mark Textor. As a result, he left his position with the Liberal Party. Crosby was also involved in setting up CT Financial, an investor relations and financial communications specialist consultancy, in 2006.
Crosby managed the Conservative Party's 2005 United Kingdom general election campaign but was unable to help leader Michael Howard defeat the incumbent Prime Minister Tony Blair. 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?"
Crosby was also appointed to run Conservative Boris Johnson's successful 2008 London mayoral election campaign, at a cost to the party of £140,000 for four months of work. 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.
In March 2009 it was announced that Crosby would direct the Europe-wide Libertas campaign for the June 2009 European Parliament elections. Despite running 600 candidates, the movement only managed to get one MEP elected, and folded shortly after.
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 July 2013 it was reported in The Guardian and elsewhere that Crosby Textor, the company which he co-founded (which is known as CTF Partners in the UK) had advised private healthcare providers on how to exploit perceived "failings" in the National Health Service in 2010. Crosby issued The Guardian with a legal challenge over their reporting. The issue resurfaced in mainstream news sources a few days before the 2015 UK general election.
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.
In the 2016 London mayoral election, it was reported that Crosby was involved in linking the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan to terrorist organisations. This campaign tactic is understood to have backfired – it was poorly received by the public, many of whom saw the campaign as Islamophobic, and Khan beat Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.
In April 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Crosby would play a leading role in the Conservatives' campaign for the 2017 general election, which May had called early. May failed to secure an outright Conservative majority and author Hannah Jane described Crosby as running a "disastrous, horrendously negative campaign".
On 3 October 2017, during the Conservative Party Conference, it was reported that Amber Rudd had hired Crosby, amid speculation that she was planning to launch a bid for leadership of the party.
In 2018, Crosby allegedly contacted Boris Johnson in an attempt to force a leadership battle against Prime Minister Theresa May in order to "destroy" her flagship Brexit policy, which he views as a betrayal of the Brexit voters. It has also been suggested by the press that his opposition to Theresa May's deal was "revenge" for Theresa May blaming her losses at the 2017 general election on him.
During the 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. 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.
In early September, at the height of the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, Crosby was brought on as a Conservative Party strategist. At this point, the Conservative campaign had hit a low point as the Tories fell to third place behind the Liberals (who had started the campaign in third place) and the New Democratic Party, which had led at the beginning of the campaign.
Crosby's decision to use identity politics, publicizing the issue of a Muslim woman refusing to remove her niqab when swearing the Canadian oath of citizenship, became one of the key issues of the campaign.
The Liberal Party went on to win a majority government in what was described as a "stunning rout", reminiscent of the Parti Quebecois' loss to the unaffiliated Quebec Liberal Party the year before, in which identity politics had also been used to unintended disadvantage. The party's increase of 148 seats from the previous election was the largest-ever numerical increase by a party in a Canadian election.
Crosby says he has never been involved with political campaigns in Canada. The Crosby Textor consulting firm has stated that neither Crosby nor anyone else in the firm was involved in the Canadian general election campaign, nor traveled to Canada during the campaign. Regardless, the spokesperson for the Conservative Party of Canada during the 2015 campaign, Kory Tenecke, stated on camera that Crosby was assisting the campaign and that Crosby had had lengthy relationship with the Party. The magazine Maclean's extensively discussed Crosby being retained by the Conservatives, his use of polarizing anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his hasty departure. Many prominent Conservatives, after being thoroughly routed by the populace and the Liberal Party of Canada, claimed that "they got the tone wrong".
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" or dog-whistle campaigning, with the targeting of marginal constituencies with highly localised campaigning, latching on to local issues and personalities. To find such divisive and potentially deflecting 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.
Dead cat theory
In a 2013 article for The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson noted that one of Crosby's tactics when losing an argument because the facts are 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. According to the Guardian, Michael Fallon was the implementer of the strategy in the 2015 when he accused Ed Miliband preparing to drop Trident as part of a deal with the Scottish National Party at a moment when the Labour party were starting to pull ahead in the polls.
Crosby is married to Dawn née Hands, an Australian, with whom he has two adult daughters: Tara and Emma. Crosby and his wife are UK residents.
In 2005, Crosby was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (postnominals AO), for "service to politics". He had previously received the Australian government's Centenary Medal, for "service to Australian society through politics".
Crosby was knighted in the UK's 2016 New Year Honours "for political service". The honour sparked criticism from figures in the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, who accused Cameron's government of engaging in political cronyism.
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