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The claim: Lynton Crosby is an Australian campaign spin doctor who exploits divisive politics to win campaigns. How true is this?

Lynton Crosby, also known either as the Wizard of Oz or the Lizard of Oz, depending on who you ask, has been brought in to help boost Harper’s campaign in the final six weeks.
In 2001, Crosby was the director of the Liberal Party in Australia. In a speech reflecting on his party’s success, he downplayed the effect that public opinion over asylum seekers and refugees had on their 2001 election victory. It was widely accepted that the right-wing John Howard had won in part due to his party’s refusal to accept refugees aboard the MV Tampa, a boat full of Afghani refugees.

Notable during that crisis was the false claim that refugees were trying to enter Australia by throwing children overboard to force Australian authorities to accept them. Crosby certainly exploited this claim and Howard’s famous “We decide who will come into this country” became notorious.

Crosby delivered London, England Mayor Boris Johnson a victory in 2008 and 2012. It was during the 2012 campaign that Crosby apparently told Johnson to focus on Tory supporters rather than “fucking Muslims,” though Johnson has said that he thought Crosby was a very sweet man.

Crosby isn’t always successful. He was behind this ad, a classic and frankly, disturbing example of dog-whistle politics, when he worked on the campaign for British Conservative Party leader Michael Howard in 2005. The “Are you thinking what we’re thinking” campaign went viral as people ruthlessly satirized it and Howard barely saw his vote percentage increase over the previous election.

He faced scrutiny for his role as a lobbyist for the tobacco and alcohol industries, in particular over whether or not he unduly influenced British Prime Minister David Cameron, who hired him as a strategist after he had been a lobbyist.

Many organizations are calling into question whether or not engaging Crosby violates Elections Canada rules. The Canadian Press reported that despite the fact that: “The Canada Elections Act specifies that it is illegal for anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to ‘in any way induce electors’ to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate,” Elections Canada have determined that advising a campaign on how to win is not “inducing” voters to vote for a particular candidate.

Writing in The Guardian in 2013, Debra Jopson said: “Through his business activities, Crosby has been seen as an enemy to those who advocate for the rights of asylum seekers, Gypsies, Indigenous people, women seeking abortions and gay marriage activists. Indeed, because of his marketing methods, it could be argued that he has helped to push politics in the western world to the right.”


Nora Loreto

Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the Canadian Association...