By Tim Montgomerie
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Lynton Crosby (far right) has ran campaigns for Australia's John Howard, Britain's Michael Howard and, twice, for London's Boris Johnson.
According to the Sunday Telegraph Lynton Crosby is to join Conservative HQ as a consultant to help coordinate David Cameron's bid to win the next election. It's a move I warmly welcome. Contrary to what Peter Oborne argued, Lynton Crosby's chief gifts include an ability to ensure that a campaign is well run and for ensuring that a consistent message is delivered. Yes, it's true that he has a set of more traditional conservative beliefs that are not to every über-moderniser's liking but the Conservative Party most needs him for his organisational abilities, his understanding of polling, his tabloid radar and his unwillingness to be distracted by media trivia.
A month ago I urged the party to recruit him at whatever price was necessary. Although there are i's to dot and t's to cross it appears to almost be a done deal that Mr Crosby's firm – Crosby Textor Fullbrook – will start advising the party from early in the new year. The role will be part-time at first but may become full-time closer to the election.
Lord Ashcroft had worried that Cameron already had a strong enough team and that Crosby joining would be a "recipe for the kind of conflict and confusion that dogged the 2010 campaign". Number 10 sources have made it clear to ConHome that Stephen Gilbert, the PM's Political Secretary, and Andrew Cooper, his polling and strategy adviser, continue to enjoy David Cameron's full confidence and will continue to be central members of his team. Mr Gilbert ran the party's marginal seats operation at the last election – where the party consisently won a bigger swing than the national average. Andrew Cooper is credited with developing the grittier "Cameron 7.0" message delivered at the Tory Conference – and widely welcomed by most commentators (and not just Bruce Anderson).
I wouldn't be at all surprised, however, if one of Cooper or Gilbert leave before the next election. As Lord Ashcroft has argued, Cameron is in danger of spoiling the broth because of too many cooks.
Overall, however, most Tory members will welcome the recruitment of Lynton Crosby. He has a good record of success and is perhaps the Alpha Male that Team Cameron has been missing since Andy Coulson exited. Coming on top of the decision to target twenty Lib Dem MPs it is a sign that Team Cameron is re-gearing for the kind of ambitious campaign that will be necessary to win a majority at the next election.
Sunday morning update: The Mail on Sunday is running with a story accusing Lynton Crosby of a "racist rant". An unnamed source is claiming that he urged Boris Johnson to "concentrate on traditional Tory voters instead of ‘f****** Muslims’". A spokesman has said that Mr Crosby has "absolutely no recollection whatsoever of making these comments".