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Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking for Scapegoats and Rescuers

The Tories have had such a dreadful week, and on some of the thinnest stories, that the search for who to blame and, more importantly, who their white knight in shining armour might be, are on apace.

Don't imagine that this is a search amongst the elected representatives.  They are now so poorly perceived that they merely perform the role of stooges.  The search is seeking to root out those favourite villains of the political piece across the ages - the adviser!  And it just happens to be where the white knight lies too.

The history of punishing the adviser for doing the will of the master has had some prominent victims over the years.

Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIIIs most effective minister, enforcing his master's will and authority with exemplary talent and success.  Obviously he made enemies, and went to the block in 1540 while the bloated Henry carried on with his capricious reign.

No-one is suggesting current villainous advisers will head to the block, but they are certainly the recipients of similar invective as dogged the late Thomas Cromwell.  The Sun has helpfully identified the masters of menace behind the Tories' succession of disasters as Press Officers Craig Oliver and Andrew Cooper, with a particularly sinister walk-on part for Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, who received more than just a mention in a recent piece for the Telegraph by James Kirkup which sported the headline "The evil counsel of Sir Jeremy Heywood......".  It's as if these Westminster hacks share targets with each other!

And where's the White Knight?  He emerges in the shape of the man many Tories are slavering over the prospect of returning to run the next election campaign, feisty Australian Lynton Crosby.  The Spectator's James Forsyth is principal cheerleader, but there are plenty who agree that in Crosby lies electoral salvation.  And why?  Because he was Boris's mayoral campaign manager and used to do pretty well for the Australian Liberal Party (don't worry - that's the rightists down there).

Crosby's services apparently come at a hefty price, and might require all of the Cabinet's millionaires to mortgage their properties.  But would he really be worth it?  Almost certainly not.  Crosby was fine marketing an amusing political buffoon against a tired, disliked old has been.  But his record in getting Tories returned to government in the UK is rather less secure.  He was, after all, the man who famously made Michael Howard's campaign one of the nastiest in recent memory, but signally failed to get the man himself anywhere near Number 10 (one of his pitches was "It's not racist to impose limits on immigration".  Perhaps not for some, but when the BNP use the issue to whip up support it's pretty well as good as, and they're hardly the fellow travellers you want to be alongside).  And this in an election year that was arguably Blair's weakest (2005) following the disaster of the Iraq war.

Many Tories like Crosby because he goes pretty well as negative as you want, and he swings heftily rightwards.  He'd certainly bring focus to any election campaign, but whether it is the right sort of focus, and whether it leads to any sort of national electoral success - those are two serious questions that his career leaves hanging. 






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