By Tim Montgomerie
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"Osborne won't mastermind Cameron's next election campaign" says the New Statesman, following up on this morning Mail story, which declared that: "George Osborne will not take charge of the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign – allowing him to concentrate on trying to revive the economy."
The news in Tim Shipman's Mail story (accompanied by the now obligatory photo of the Chancellor looking vaguely sinister) is that Lynton Crosby might become the Tories' campaign chief. Crosby was once introduced as a veteran of Australian election campaigns but he's now better known as the man who implemented Michael Howard's 2005 general election campaign and who ran the two successful mayoral campaigns for Boris Johnson. He certainly has his admirers among Tory MPs (something Sam Coates noted in Monday's Times (£)). Just today Rob Wilson MP turned to Twitter to describe Crosby as a "campaign genius". Another Tory MP, Alun Cairns, publicly worried, however, about whether a Crosby appointment would signal a return to some sort of "core vote" campaign.
I have no idea if Lynton Crosby would take the job. George Osborne is certainly an admirer, having recruited him to run Boris Johnson's campaign in the first place. Crosby has significant commercial interests and it would be expensive to hire him away from them – especially this early in the parliamentary cycle. I also would pour cold water on the idea that George Osborne would no longer be involved in election strategy. It would be helpful if he stepped away from any day-to-day political role (we need a full-time Chancellor) but I'd be flabbergasted if he was no longer fully involved in setting the thrust of election strategy. This would certainly be a factor in Crosby's mind if he is considering taking the job. In Boris Johnson's circle he largely ran the show. He wouldn't run this operation. The big decisions would still be taken by DC and GO.
Whoever the Tories recruit to run their campaign (and let's remember the next election might be sooner than 2015 if Coalition frictions continue to mount) I hope we absorb the advice of Mark Textor (Crosby's business partner). He wrote this a couple of months ago (my emphasis):
"Ignore media commentators and stick to your part of the plan. Especially ignore their strategy, marketing poll interpretations. There are almost no former journalists who have been successful campaign managers. This is because they are tactically focused on Monday morning's headlines and not the long-term strategy required to get a consistent and, critically, a salient message to the public."