Boris Johnson's former election mastermind is at the heart of a row about lobbyists' influence over government. Lynton Crosby has been working as a 'campaign consultant' for the Conservative party since November 2012 – but his company, Crosby Textor, also represents tobacco giant Philip Morris.
When asked repeatedly if Crosby influenced the government's decision to drop plans to enforce plain cigarette packaging, Prime Minister David Cameron kept saying he 'hasn't been lobbied by' Crosby. In an interview with Andrew Marr a few days ago he finally went further and said Crosby doesn't intervene in government policy. Lynton Crosby yesterday issued a statement denying ever having any conversation with the PM about tobacco packaging. However, the release of a document purporting to show the 'principles of engagement' under which he works for the Conservatives, and was clearly only drawn up recently, adds a whiff of desperation and doubt.
This issue strikes at the root of the ongoing argument about lobbyists and their power over government decisions, but also touches on City Hall. It was Crosby who took charge of Boris's campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and, particularly in 2008, shook them up and put them on track for victory. No wonder the Mayor feels a great deal of personal loyalty and was highly enthusiastic about Crosby's appointment by the main Tory party.
But even at City Hall there were questions of inappropriate access. For part of 2011 Crosby had an all-areas pass for City Hall, against GLA rules, which was eventually discovered to have been requested by Boris Johnson himself. If we remember correctly (and we're sure someone will correct us in the comments if not), it was never really clear just what Crosby had been doing with a free run at City Hall.