Stephen Harper’s struggling Conservatives have taken on Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby as a campaign adviser – the man widely credited with helping David Cameron win a majority government in the U.K. earlier this year.
Mr. Crosby’s work for Canada’s Conservative Party has become public as Mr. Harper’s party, now third in the polls, tries to reboot its campaign after a series of blunders in recent weeks and questions about campaign director Jenni Byrne ‘s adeptness during this race.
The Australian campaign consultant has been described as the “Wizard of Oz” for his skill at political messaging, which relies on targeting particular groups of voters and using polls to fine-tune the effort.
Conservative campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke declined to discuss Mr. Crosby’s relationship with the party, saying the Tories do not comment on staffing matters.
A party source familiar with the matter said Mr. Crosby has been helping the Tories party analyze polling.
The official nevertheless rejected the notion Mr. Crosby is coming in to take over the campaign or backstop Ms. Byrne.
“The thing he is most helpful … is assistance in polling analysis and that doesn’t really touch on Jenni’s universe.”
The source said Mr. Crosby has connections to the Harper Conservatives that stretch back nine years and he was a friend of Doug Finley, a campaign director during past elections who passed away in 2013. “He’s part of our mix,” the source said.
Mr. Crosby is a master of wedge politics – where parties exploit social issues such as crime or race or immigration to split public opinion in their favour.
He’s also controversial.
Mr. Crosby has been accused of helping exploit fears over refugees to win elections – the Harper government has been taking a hardline stand on that very same topic, justifying its pace of acceptance by saying Ottawa must screen people from a “terrorist war zone” very carefully.
Before his work on this year’s Cameron victory in the United Kingdom, Mr. Crosby built his reputation as a campaign whiz in Australia.
He played a major role in Australian prime minister John Howard’s 2001 campaign, where refugees figured prominently.
That year Mr. Howard turned away a refugee vessel, MV Tampa, with nearly 440 people on board and ads his Liberal Party ran in the newspapers said “We decide who comes into this country.” The refusal to accept these asylum seekers is believed to have helped Mr. Howard win re-relection.Report Typo/Error