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Aust spin master Crosby becomes knight

Press AssociationPress Association 6/05/2016

Controversial election strategist Lynton Crosby has been heralded as both the "Wizard of Oz" and a "master of the dark political arts" in his role as one of the most successful right-wing political consultants in recent years.

The Australian, who was David Cameron's general election campaign director, was widely regarded as the mastermind behind the Tory victory in 2015.

But after the announcement of the knighthood, which he will receive on Friday, Cameron was criticised for using the honours system to reward "Tory cronies and donors".

The son of a cereal farmer, the soon-to-be Sir Lynton grew up in Kadina on South Australia's Yorke peninsula and later read economics at the University of Adelaide.

After working for a petrol company and an oil exploration firm he joined the staff of a Liberal politician and honed a skill for tailoring political messages to create eye-catching headlines.

He unsuccessfully stood for parliament in Australia in 1981 but the polling guru, in his late 50s, became well-known for divisive campaigning, particularly on immigration, after helping former prime minister John Howard win four elections in his homeland between 1996 and 2004.

The Conservative Party first hired him to help win Michael Howard's 2005 crime and immigration-focused campaign.

Despite failing to produce a victory, he went on to run both of Boris Johnson's successful mayoral campaigns.

Zac Goldsmith's London mayoral campaign is being run this year by his communications firm CTF Comms which has been criticised by some, even within the Conservative Party, for its negative campaigning and focus on Sadiq Khan's Muslim heritage.

After the 2015 election, Crosby criticised political commentators who failed to predict the result and Conservative-supporting figures who criticised his approach.

The married father of two is said to enjoy sport and woodwork and maintain close relationships with the leaders he works with.

When his honour was announced in December 2015, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham labelled Crosby's knighthood "outrageous".

Labour MP Graham Jones said: "The honours system is supposed to recognise dedicated public service, not simply be a vehicle to reward Tory cronies and donors. David Cameron should take care not to undermine the integrity of the system."

The move was defended by Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, who described Crosby at the time as a "great public servant" and said it was right that such people were recognised through the honours system.

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