Jessica Murphy (The Guardian):
Amid a flurry of negative news stories and slipping poll figures, Canada’s Conservative party has confirmed that it has enlisted the help of Lynton Crosby – the Australian political strategist who advised Britain’s Conservative and Australia’s Liberal parties – to help steer the party’s struggling campaign for re-election.
Campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke confirmed on Thursday that the Tories have been seeking advice from Crosby, the bare-knuckle campaign adviser credited with helping engineer David Cameron’s absolute majority in the British general election last May.
“We were fans of Lynton Crosby before many people knew who Lynton Crosby was,” Teneycke told the Guardian.
Teneycke said Crosby has given the party “formal and informal advice” over many years, adding that the Australian adviser met with the campaign team a couple of months ago and has been helped the party with analysis of research and polling.
“I’m not going to comment on the specific nature of the relationship but it’s a close one and an ongoing one and one that predates this campaign,” he said.
Crosby, who has drawn comparisons to George W Bush’s campaign chief Karl Rove, is known for bringing a sharp focus to campaign messaging.
But he also comes with a reputation for an aggressive style and a playbook that includes negative campaigning and so-called “wedge politics” – a tactic using often controversial social issues to split voter opinion in their favour.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, whose 2008 and 2012 wins Crosby helped orchestrate, once described him in an interview as “a man who never lets an abusive thought form in his mind without immediately forming it into a text and sending it to the object of his wrath”.
Crosby was dubbed the “Wizard of Oz” for delivering four successive Conservative election victories to the former Australian prime minister John Howard, although his political rivals have been less flattering: the former British politician Vince Cable once referred to him as “an Australian rottweiler”.
New polling figures suggest that Stephen Harper’s party will need all the help it can get: a poll released earlier this week showed the Conservatives at third place behind the two main left-leaning opposition parties, the New Democrats and the Liberals.
The Nanos survey has the New Democratic Party (NDP) at 32.7%, the Liberals at 30.8% and the Conservatives at 26.2%. A previous Nanos poll last month showed the Conservatives leading the race at 41%.
The party has been buffeted by a weakening economy, and a string of controversies and blunders in recent weeks.
The party is facing heated criticism over its handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body ashore in Turkey had family in Canada. On Thursday Harper suggested that if re-elected his party would work to speed up the processing of asylum claims.
A senate spending and corruption scandal has also dogged the Conservative leader on the campaign trail and has embroiled some of his most trusted and senior staff.
Canadians go to the polls 19 October.