Donald Brind looks at the Goldsmith campaign tactics
Pick your metaphor. Canine or feline. The folklore surrounding Tory election guru Lynton Crosby has both â€œdead catsâ€ and â€œdog whistlesâ€. They refer to a strategy based on playing the man not the ball; issuing innuendos and smears rather than fighting on the issues.He was David Cameronâ€™s saviour in the general election but the Crosby approach failed to deliver for the Canadian Tories back in October.
Crosbyâ€™s fingerprints are all over the London Mayoral campaign. Soon after his selection as Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith hired Mark Fullbrook, Jim Messina and Craig Elder, appointments, which according to the Evening Standard â€œreveal the influence of Mr Crosby, the Australian election guru who masterminded Boris Johnsonâ€™s mayoral victories in 2008 and 2012â€. It added that Tory MPs regard him as a miracle worker for â€œclinching a Commons overall majority in May on a popular vote of 37 per cent.â€
The Crosby strategy failed in Canada when playing the Islamaphobia card back-fired on the then Premier Stephen Harper. In a PB post ahead of the Canadian poll I noted a Guardian comment that Harperâ€™s decision to invoke anti-Muslim rhetoric coincided with Crosbyâ€™s involvement. â€œHis presence in Canada first became apparent during a debate in which Harper appealed for the votes of what he called â€œold-stock Canadiansâ€ â€“ a novel phrase that struck a deliberately discordant note in the typically inclusive chorus of Canadian multiculturalism.â€
The hope â€“ Yes, I am biased â€“ that what failed in Canada will fail in London is prompted by a fierce attack on Goldsmith by Tory activist Shazia Awan who fought the General Election in a safe Labour seat and clearly cherishes a parliamentary career.
In a New Statesman articleÂ adorned with an impressive trio of photographs of the aspirant Aswan with Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and Theresa May she claims that Goldsmithâ€™s campaign is â€œdragging the party back to the days of Enoch Powell.â€
She says she had always admired Goldsmith as a principled Tory, an environmental campaigner and someone who loved London.Now she says, she sees Goldsmith as a man â€œtoo weak to stand up to those directing his campaign, and as a result ruining his own reputation and credibility in the fickle pursuit of power.â€
Worse still, she says, is the very real thought that Tory campaign chiefsÂ know they are in controversial territory of their own creation, and want to use it as an opportunity to create a wedge and vitriolic rhetoric between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims.
The Tory activistâ€™s assault echoes charges from Labour that Goldsmith is attacking Khan in coded anti-Muslim messages. Khan is routinely described as â€œradical and divisiveâ€. Labour List says â€œslippery wordsâ€ like â€œradicalâ€ to comes â€œdangerously closeâ€ to the term â€œradicalisedâ€.
The Labour activist websiteÂ highlights leaflets sent to Indian and Tamil voters suggesting Khan will impose â€œa wealth tax on family jewelleryâ€. “In one fell swoop people of Indian and Tamil origin are reduced to a stereotype: their primary concern is hoarding jewellery.”
Tory activist Awan says she is â€œdisgusted and deeply upset by the intrusive, patronising and divisive tacticsâ€ being used by her party. She says the resort to racial profiling â€œin one of the most beautifully diverse cities in the world where the black, minority and ethnic population makes up 44 per cent of the voteâ€ is desperate and foolish.
And she predicts It is likely to see the election of a Labour Mayor.