Anyone who believed a lot of the press comment about Lynton Crosby would find the man himself gravely disappointing. To judge by the
cuttings, you might think that he was a cross between Ned Kelly, a Barry
Humphries character and Crocodile Dundee. That is an entire distortion.
I am now about to libel him, because any court in Australia would agree
that calling someone "charming and sophisticated" is highly defamatory:
virtually a synonym for pommie poofter, itself a tautology. But Lynton
is charming, sophisticated, shrewd and thoughtful, just like his former
boss, John Howard, who is one of the greatest men of our time.
Mr Howard, Lynton is tough. No-one would want to be up in front
of him on a charge. But he leads by clarity and natural authority, not
by shouting and bawling. Election campaigns are stressful affairs,
especially when there is little hope of winning, as with the Tories in
2005. Under Lynton's direction, Central Office was a happy ship as well
as a taut one. He won affection as well as respect.
Lynton is not an
ideologue. He will not arrive with his own agenda. He will ask the
existing team what they want to do and then show them how to turn that
into an election campaign. With Boris Johnson in 2008, there was one
difference. The candidate seemed to have no idea what he wanted to do.
So Messrs Cameron and Osborne sent for Lynton, to turn a bumble of
amiable incoherence into a successful mayoral candidate. (Not even
Lynton could make him a grateful one.)
Nor is Lynton Crosby a
self-publicist. He would agree with that wise Tory official, Michael
Fraser – whom Rab Butler described as "the greatest civil servant the
party ever had" – that the back-room boys should stay in the back room.
In modern media conditions, that will not be easy, but he will not be
using the Tory party to promote himself.
His job is to turn strategy
into tactics. As for the strategy, that will be determined by a shadowy,
secretive figure, another veteran of the 2005 campaign: David Cameron.
* * *
by clarity and authority: that might almost tempt Justin Welby into the
deadly sin of envy – or at least as far as envying the Pope. The
Archbishop-elect possesses both those qualities, in excelsis – but how
can he persuade his Church to take any notice? "The essence of religion
is authority and obedience" wrote Newman. So who had the daft idea of
making the C of E democratic?
Although I thought that the laity
should have fallen into line behind their leaders – otherwise you might
conclude that the Church of England was a Protestant body – the female
faction did their cause no favours. Most of their spokesmen who found
their way to the media went in for hysterically-exaggerated language. We
were told that the Church had just committed suicide. Really? It has
survived for 2,000 years without female prelates. Are we to believe that
all the churches will be empty this Sunday: that no-one will be singing
a Christmas carol this year?
Whenever I switched on the radio, there
was a thoughtful, concerned female Christian who sounded as she had
scrutinised her conscience and agonised before voting "no" – up against a
harridan who made Harriet Harman sound like Portia, and who did not
sound like a carol singer.
So what should happen next? What about a
committee, as small as is possible while still carrying weight, to try
to resolve matters – plus an agreement that public discussion should be
kept to a minimum. There are other issues. This is a time of year when
unbelievers should envy Christians – that would not be a sin. In the
darkness of midwinter, the Church can proclaim a great light; in the
midst of suffering and misery, it can offer hope and redemption. If the C
of E rejects all that for futile introspection, it is adding to the
canon of deadly sins.
* * *
and redemption: although Britain is not a theocracy, we generally
assume that those in prison have committed one and are in need of the
other – otherwise what are they doing behind bars? So why is Sergeant
Danny Nightingale in gaol? Almost everyone who has studied the case
cannot understand the sentence. Could someone really forget that they
had a pistol in the house? Yes they could, if they had served in the
Special Forces, where firearms are commonplace, and if they had suffered
from a fever which affected their brain.
Above the level of
barbarism, any penal system must hold open the possibility of mercy,
albeit in exceptional cases. This is one such. This is an exceptional
man, who is being foully treated by his country, which he has served so
well. Scrutinising consciences; Sergeant Nightingale should be on all
* * *
chute", said Clemenceau when he heard that Paderewski had become
President of Poland. One feels something similar about Tony Hall, giving
up Covent Garden to run the BBC. Let us hope that he can impose
management structures, restore morale – and set out to be remembered for