BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged by both the Labour Party and the Liberal-Democrats to sack Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby after revelations that his lobbying firm was closely linked to the tobacco industry.
Mr Crosby, a former federal director of the Liberal Party of Australia, was appointed as a campaign consultant for the Conservative Party in November 2012. He had previously managed the Conservative Party’s unsuccessful 2005 election campaign, as well as assisting Boris Johnson in his election as London Mayor in 2008.
The call to remove Mr Crosby from his position as an advisor to the Cameron government came after former Health Minister Paul Burstow said that he should either quit or be removed from his position in order to prevent him from influencing public health policy.
Mr Burstow said that Mr Crosby should not have a position in the Conservative Party’s campaign team due to the fact that tobacco giant Phillip Morris has been a client of his London-based lobbying firm since November last year. The fact that CTF’s relationship with Phillip Morris began around the time that he was appointed to the Cameron campaign team has raised questions regarding Mr Crosby’s motivations when it comes to public health.
Mr Burstow said: “Lynton Crosby cannot remain at the heart of government while he is also serving the interests of the tobacco industry. If he does not go the prime minister should sack him.”
The controversy surrounding Mr Crosby’s role as a government advisor comes only days after Downing Street scrapped plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes despite considerable pressure from health ministers to implement the reforms. The British plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes was modelled on a similar Australian initiative introduced by the Gillard government last year.
The decision to delay the introduction of plain packaging in the United Kingdom was attributed to a lack of evidence from Australian authorities that the initiative would be successful. British Health Minister Anna Soubry said that the Australian government’s inability to show any evidence that plain packaging was a deterrent against smoking had forced the Cameron government to hold off on implementing a similar plan.
Ms Soubry said: “We’ve made a decision to look at that evidence as it emerges. What I was quite surprised at was that even after about three or four months, they couldn’t give me a picture of any emerging evidence as they were finding it, and that’s why we need this time.”
Anne Jones, CEO of anti-smoking organisation ASH Australia, told Australian Times that the lack of evidence relating to plain packaging came from the initiative only being implemented seven months ago, with government surveys undertaken annually rather than monthly. She claimed that Mr Crosby was well-known as a lobbyist for Phillip Morris and suggested he may have had a hand in the decision to delay plain packaging legislation.
Ms Jones said: “As you would expect the only opponent to standardised packaging for tobacco is the tobacco industry and of course the lobbyists who represent their interests. Lynton Crosby is well known in Australia as the leading lobbyist for tobacco industry and Philip Morris has just confirmed he works for them. His dual role as tobacco lobbyist and chief adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron is a conflict of interest and shameful given Downing Street was apparently where the policy backed by public support was rejected.”
Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham yesterday claimed that Mr Crosby last year chaired a meeting at which members of the tobacco industry debated strategies to block the plain packaging legislation in the United Kingdom. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that Mr Crosby had not been involved in the decision to shelve plain packaging legislation, while Mr Crosby’s lobbying firm CTF declined to comment on the controversy.