Election guru Sir Lynton Crosby must shoulder some blame for the Tories disastrous 2017 campaign, Theresa May’s former chief-of-staff has said.
Nick Timothy, who quit Downing Street days after the Tories lost their overall majority, said Australian strategist Sir Lynton insisted the Prime Minister run a presidential-style campaign and cut her ministers out of media coverage.
Sir Lynton ran the successful 2015 Tory campaign and was the driving force behind Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor of London.
But critics say he has lost his magic touch after running Zac Goldsmith’s doomed bid to succeed Boris and advising on May’s failed bid to boost her majority.
Timothy, who alongside Fiona Hill was dubbed one half of the PM’s “gruesome twosome” at No 10, took criticism of the manifesto he co-authored with Ben Gummer, admitting it “might have been too ambitious”.
“Nobody inside CCHQ was prepared for election night’s 10pm exit poll,” Timothy wrote in the Spectator, adding Sir Lynton had been confident of a comfortable Tory majority of more than 90 until that point.
Timothy went on: “Because this election failed to produce the majority we needed, it is impossible to call the campaign anything but a failure.
“Before it began, we envisaged a return to traditional campaigning methods, with daily press conferences to scrutinise Labour and promote our policies. Theresa, never comfortable hogging the limelight, expected to make more use of her ministerial team.
“On the advice of the campaign consultants, and following opinion research that showed Theresa to be far more popular than the party or her colleagues, we eschewed our instincts. We were wrong to do so.
Timothy mounted a partial defence of his ‘dementia tax’ proposal, which would have seen the elderly pay for social care from the value of their homes and was widely believed to have turned voters off.
He said it was right to spell out where cuts would fall, rather than offering voters “bribes and giveaways” as he claimed the Labour manifesto had.
“While I accept that the manifesto might have been too ambitious, I worry that the implication of this argument is that politicians should not be straight with the electorate,” he said.
Timothy also said moving towards a soft Brexit following the election debacle was a flawed strategy.
“Since that would involve accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, vast annual membership payments to the EU, and the continuation of free movement rules, people who voted to leave the European Union might wonder whether advocates of a ‘soft’ departure really do understand that Brexit means Brexit,” he said.