‘Some will say PM’s fixer is racist’: Top Tory attacks Cameron’s chief over foul-mouthed rant at Muslims
David Cameron’s controversial new campaign chief, Lynton Crosby, was in a fresh row last night after a leading Tory peer said his foul-mouthed rant against Muslims could be seen as ‘racist’.
Former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft told friends that outspoken Australian Mr Crosby’s remark about ‘f****** Muslims’ was a major error of judgment.
‘The danger is that other people will see it as racist,’ Lord Ashcroft was heard to comment at the Spectator magazine parliamentary awards lunch at The Savoy in London. ‘Some people may assume he means effing Muslims, effing blacks and all effing immigrants and will not appreciate that Muslim is a religion not a race.
According to reliable sources, Lord Ashcroft added: ‘When I heard about Mr Crosby’s comment, I was sorely tempted to send him a list of nine Muslims who have won the Victoria Cross fighting for this country.’ The peer, a military historian, owns 162 VCs, the world’s largest collection.
One of Ashcroft’s VCs was awarded to Ali Haider, an Indian-born Muslim awarded the medal for his bravery in Italy in 1945. Haider stormed two German machine-gun posts, despite severe wounds, allowing his company to cross a river safely.
Lord Ashcroft, who has commissioned research on how to win ethnic minority support, is understood to believe it is ‘crazy’ for Mr Crosby to argue it is a ‘waste of time’ pursuing Muslim votes.
Following The Mail on Sunday’s disclosure last week about Mr Crosby’s comment about Muslims, it also emerged that:
- A Sikh aide to Boris Johnson claimed he was ‘sidelined’ by Mr Crosby because of his views on the need for Tories to win ethnic minority votes.
- Mr Crosby reportedly joked: ‘Let’s put a rag round the battle bus’ – referring to a Muslim headscarf.
- Tory sources claimed Mr Crosby is being paid about £200,000 a year for one week’s work per month.
- Members of the Conservative board have complained after being told to rubber stamp Mr Crosby’s appointment tomorrow.
Kulveer Ranger, a Sikh and former Tory vice-chairman, has told friends he was ‘sidelined’ by Mr Crosby during Mr Johnson’s Election campaign after a disagreement over the ethnic minority vote.
Mr Ranger, who was the most senior person from an ethnic background on Mr Johnson’s City Hall team, complained privately after his pleas to spend more time wooing blacks and Asians were rejected by Mr Crosby.
In one incident, Right-wing guru Mr Crosby, renowned for his anti-immigration campaigns, reportedly blocked Mr Ranger’s plan for Mr Johnson to visit a Sikh temple on the Sikh New Year – and took the Mayor to a Jewish community instead.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday last night, Mr Ranger, Mr Johnson’s former transport chief who introduced ‘Boris Bikes’, claimed Ed Miliband could win power if Mr Crosby uses the same tactics on behalf of Mr Cameron.
‘Lynton is very good at getting the core Tory vote out but that is no longer enough for a centre-Right party, as the US election showed,’ he said. ‘That core vote is shrinking, as it is in the US, and if the Conservatives do not have a wider appeal, floating voters will be more vulnerable to the Labour narrative.
‘Lynton has the discipline and motivation needed in political campaigns. But Mr Cameron has done a lot to change the look and appeal of the Conservative Party and must maintain this broader approach.’
Another official who worked for Mr Johnson said that during a discussion on ethnic politics, Mr Crosby reportedly joked, ‘Let’s put a rag round the battle bus’, apparently referring to Muslim headwear.
According to Tory sources, Mr Crosby is to be paid up to £20,000 a month for one week’s work per month at Tory HQ over the next year – well over £200,000 for 12 weeks’ work.
Members of the Tory Party’s ruling board have been asked to approve Mr Crosby’s appointment tomorrow, although the final terms of his contract have not been settled.
One board member said: ‘There are mutterings about it being rushed through.’
Panicking, Mr Cameron was forced to bring forward the announcement as a result of last week’s report in this newspaper.
A Tory aide said: ‘We weren’t planning to announce it until next month because of contractual issues. But if we hadn’t moved fast, the stuff about Lynton slagging off Muslims would have made it impossible.’
But Mr Crosby received support last night from two leading Tory ethnic minority peers. A source close to Muslim Cabinet member Sayeeda Warsi described the controversy over his ‘f****** Muslims’ remark as a ‘storm in a teacup,’ adding: ‘Sayeeda is a fan of Lynton and will have no difficulty working with him.’
And Shreela Flather, a Conservative baroness who has Indian roots, said: ‘I don’t condone swearing, but Lynton is right to say it is pointless for the Conservatives to chase Muslim votes. They are all on benefits and all vote Labour.’
Conservatives remain sharply divided about Mr Crosby.
A long-standing friend said: ‘Lynton puts effing in front of everything, Muslims, Poms, the British weather and the cost of a pint.
‘He hasn’t a racist bone in his body, he’s just an Aussie bloke. Get over it.’
But one ethnic Tory adviser who has worked closely with him added: ‘I found his language on race deeply offensive and it infects everyone. I often felt like walking out of meetings, but it is hard to stand up to him. Even Boris was scared to.’
Last night Mr Crosby denied making a remark about putting ‘a rag around the battlebus’ or sidelining Mr Ranger.
His spokesman said: ‘At Lynton’s instigation, Boris took part in a Muslim hustings for the first time of any mayoral campaign and met with London’s most senior imams at Regent’s Park Mosque among many other ethnic minority events.
‘Any suggestion Lynton is racist is categorically wrong.’