Tories paid Crosby's firm millions for advising May's election campaign

Money On Hook

The Conservatives paid Sir Lynton Crosby’s firm millions of pounds for advice on Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign that saw her mocked for claiming to be “strong and stable”, it has emerged.

The Sun first reported a Tory source claiming that the bill for Crosby’s company, CTF Partners, “was easily £4m and when the final invoices are totted up it could be much more”.

A second Conservative source told the Guardian the figure was in the right ballpark, highlighting the many millions spent by the party over the years on Crosby’s advice. CTF has been approached for comment.

Since the election, rival factions of advisers have sought to blame each other for May losing the Conservative majority.

Those close to the Downing Street co-chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned after the election, have claimed Crosby was too fixated on the “strong and stable” theme, putting May front and centre of the campaign when her personality was not suited to such a strategy. Her wooden performances subsequently saw her branded the “Maybot”.

Timothy wrote in a column last week:“Our early instincts when we were thinking about the election was to have a more traditional campaign, daily press conferences, more policy content, certainly not make it a semi-presidential campaign.

“And we didn’t do those things because the advice was about playing to strengths (meaning Mrs May) and to be perfectly honest I didn’t really challenge that. I was in a position to change this and I didn’t. With hindsight obviously we would have done it differently.”

On the other side, critics of the Tory manifesto, co-drafted by Timothy, have claimed Crosby was not happy with the inclusion of a controversial shake-up of social care policy that was soon dubbed a “dementia tax”.

Separately, Timothy was given permission to write a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph and a monthly column for the Sun by the government’s advisory committee on business appointments, as long as he does not draw on any information from his time in No 10.

Timothy will have to tread carefully to abide by the rules set out by the committee, which noted he was required to confirm in writing to Downing Street that he recognised that he “continues to be bound by the provisions of the criminal law (including the Official Secrets Act), which protect certain categories of information, and by his duty of confidentiality owed to the crown”.

The body also stipulated that he “should not draw on (disclose or use for the benefit of himself or the organisation to which this advice refers) any privileged information available to him from his time in crown service”.

Crosby, an Australian nicknamed the “wizard of Oz” for his work as an election strategist, also worked on David Cameron’s successful 2015 election campaign and two victories for Boris Johnson in his London mayoral bids.

However, he was involved in less successful campaigns for Michael Howard, then Conservative leader, against Tony Blair in 2005, and CTF Partners worked on Zac Goldsmith’s failed London mayoral bid in 2016.

Since the election, Crosby has defended May’s decision to call an early general election and warned against writing off the embattled prime minister.

He has also played down the influence of the youth turnout on the result, while predicting more people would vote for Brexit should another referendum be held.

While speaking at a business lunch in Sydney, he claimed that voters had turned out for Jeremy Corbyn partly because they thought he would not win.

“On polling day, over 70% of voters thought the Conservatives were going to win,” Crosby said. “So they thought we’ll reward [Corbyn] for being prepared to talk about interesting things and shake the system up, but we’ll still have the comfort of having Theresa May as prime minister at the end of the day.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason and Anushka Asthana, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 8th August 2017 19.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010