Senior Liberal Democrats are calling for the sacking of David Cameron’s election strategist, Lynton Crosby, over his links with the tobacco industry. The latest row over the role big money plays in politics in Downing Street follows the government’s decision to shelve plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, which prompted furious reactions from the health lobby and MPs across all political parties.
Lynton Crosby’s links with the tobacco industry has even caused some Liberal Democrats to state that they would fight to ensure Crosby was removed from any role in which he could influence health or any coalition policy in any way. The Tory chairman of the all-party select committee on health, former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, responded to all the growing furore with the announcement that his committee would look into why the government has backtracked on the issue of plain cigarette packaging.
Dismay at the sudden change of mind deepened yesterday when Philip Morris, one of the Big Four tobacco companies said it had employed Crosby’s lobbying and communications firm, CTF, to give advice on a range of matters since November of last year. CTF over time has consistently refused to mention its list of clients, despite long-standing suspicions that it works for big names in tobacco and drinks industries.
Crosby has been employed as the chief strategist of the the Conservative Party since last autumn. The predominant cause of concern among the Liberal Democrats here is that Crosby continues to work for the government, despite also serving the interests of the tobacco industry. Because there is the small matter of conflict of interest here, several Lib Dems figures are arguing that Crosby cannot continue to work at the centre of the government.
Lynton Crosby was brought in to run the Tories’ 2015 election campaign, upon Boris Johnson’s recommendation. David Cameron, for his part, has insisted that Crosby is only employed by the Tory party and not the government, and does not lobby him on policy.Osmi Anannya