Theresa May ignored Lynton Crosby warning that snap election was 'huge risk'

Posted On: 
3rd September 2017

Theresa May dismissed a warning from a key party adviser that calling June's snap election was a “huge risk” that could backfire, a leaked memo has revealed.

Theresa May in No 10 Downing Street
Credit: 
PA Images

The memo, written days before the snap election was called, urged the Prime Minister to rethink plans for an early election, adding that voters were desperate to avoid uncertainty. 

Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian election strategist credited with helping David Cameron win a majority in 2015, said there was a risk the Tory vote share would be “broadly similar” to Mr Cameron’s rather than the landslide Mrs May hoped for. 

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When Sir Lynton was initially told about the snap election, he responded: “I don’t think that’s a smart idea, mate.” 

The memo, leaked to the Mail on Sunday, also encouraged Mrs May to focus on the economy during the election campaign. However this proposal was reportedly ignored because of a long running feud between Nick Timothy and Philip Hammond.

Mrs May’s former chief of staff repeatedly called the Chancellor a “c***” in front of officials, according to the paper.

The memo read: “There is clearly a lot of risk involved with holding an early election – and a real need to nail down the 'why' for doing so now. Voters are actively seeking to avoid uncertainty and maintain the status quo, yet by calling an election the Conservatives are the ones who are creating uncertainty.

“Furthermore, there is a real risk that the Conservative vote share would end up broadly the similar to that the party secured in 2015. Voters don't want the uncertainty that an election will cause, in large part because they are worried about the risk of a hung Parliament creating chaos over the delivery of Brexit.” 

June's shock result saw the Tories lose their majority, forcing them to rely on the votes of Democratic Unionist Party MPs.

Mrs May's hold on the leadership has been seen as increasingly fragile since the result, with former Chancellor George Osborne describing her as a “dead woman walking”, while some Conservative MPs reportedly urging her to stand aside.

However, on a visit to Japan she insisted she was “in this for the long term” and that she wants to lead the party into the next general election.

A party insider told the paper: “Crosby's research showed people liked what May was doing to help the JAMs (the so-called 'Just About Managing'). 

"But they couldn't see why she needed an election to do it. And they said 'if we give her a big majority she might use it against us'. When she announced the dementia tax and cuts to winter fuel handouts for OAPs, and school meals, they felt their fears were justified.'

Another source described the campaign as a “mess”. 

“Nothing had been thought through because the PM's team were desperate to keep the Election quiet and didn't trust anyone. Crosby wanted to use some tactics he did with David Cameron, but May's people hated Cameron so much they refused out of spite.”

However, an aide attacked the notion that Sir Lynton had been blameless in the election campaign. 

The insider told the paper: “We were all deeply disappointed by the Election result. But to suggest it was all the fault of one person or another is a travesty.
'Lynton Crosby bears the same responsibility as everyone else. Playing the blame game will not get us anywhere.'

Another aide said: “To suggest Lynton wanted to use Hammond is a travesty. He was the one who said the campaign had to be about 'strong and stable' Theresa and no one and nothing else. That is why it went wrong.”