THERE ARE calls for David Cameron’s top election strategist Lynton Crosby to be “sent back to Australia” following revelations his lobbying company has also worked for tobacco giant Phillip Morris.
Liberal Democrat Lord Avebury has turned on the British Prime Minister over his employment of Mr Crosby, who is accused of using his position to influence the government over plain cigarette packaging laws.
Mr Cameron is under pressure to detail his dealings with Mr Crosby after the Conservative Party announced in early July that it would dump plans to introduce legislation governing tobacco packaging.
Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Avebury said “For Mr Crosby to have any dealings whatsoever with government departments and to exercise a malign influence in the background is harmful to the public health in the United Kingdom… he should be got rid of and sent back to Australia.”
It has been revealed that Philip Morris International created a database tracking the opinion of every British MP on the issue of plain cigarette packaging as part of its successful lobbying campaign against new laws.
In a leaked document, the company detailed proposals to fight proposed legislation, including a spreadsheet documenting the believed position of every politician in the House of Commons.
Mr Crosby, who was influential in the election victories of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, has denied improperly using his position as a campaign adviser to the Conservative Party to discuss plain packaging.
“At no time have I had any conversation or discussion with or lobbied the prime minister, or indeed the health secretary or the health minister, on plain packaging or tobacco issues.”
Former government watchdog, Sir Alastair Graham, has demanded that the lobbyist come clean over the other clients his firm has represented while working for the government.
Sir Graham, ex-chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has said that any conflict of interest must be made public.
“The Prime Minister has said that he is very committed to openness and transparency,” said Sir Graham.
“We need to be transparent given he is so close to the Prime Minister — to know precisely what the potential conflicts of interest might be.
“I strongly think it leaves a bit of an unhealthy smell over the political system that there is a person that has possible influence, or perception of influence, over the Prime Minister.”
Mr Crosby’s firm, CTF Partners, also lobbied for British American Tobacco in Australia when it fought plans for plain packaging laws.
Under the legislation in Australia, companies have had to sell their cigarettes in a logo-free, drab dark brown packaging since 1 December 2012.
The UK government will postpone any plans for similar laws until the success of the move in Australia is assessed.