Nick Timothy lays into Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina over Tory campaign 'failure'

Posted On: 
14th June 2017

A former top aide to Theresa May has launched a direct attack on big-name polling gurus Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina over the "failure" of the Tory election campaign.

Nick Timothy quit as Theresa May's joint-chief of staff on Saturday.
Dominic Lipinski/PA

Nick Timothy - who quit Downing Street along with his fellow co-joint chief of staff Fiona Hill at the weekend - said both men had dramatically overestimated the party’s performance on polling day.

The Conservatives ultimately lost seats – and their overall majority – and are currently in talks to secure the support of the DUP to prop up a minority administration.

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Much of the Conservative campaign focused on Mrs May’s personal qualities – a strategy which Mr Timothy set he did not agree with.

Writing for The Spectator, he blamed “campaign consultants” - thought to be Mr Crosby and his team - for ditching their plans to make greater use of other Cabinet ministers.

Mr Timothy said “nobody inside CCHQ” had expected the exit poll, which was released when voting ended at 10pm last Thursday, to forecast a hung parliament.

“Lynton Crosby’s last text to me predicted that we were going to ‘do well’, which according to our expectations would mean a Conservative majority of more than 60,” he wrote.  

“A late projection, based on data from the ground and Jim Messina’s modelling, suggested we would win 371 seats, giving us a majority of 92.”

Earlier in the campaign, Mr Messina - a former adviser to Barack Obama - had mocked YouGov analysis which claimed the Tories would fall short of a majority.

Mr Timothy said: "Because this election failed to produce the majority we needed, it is impossible to call the campaign anything but a failure.

"Before it began, we envisaged a return to traditional campaigning methods, with daily press conferences to scrutinise Labour and promote our policies. Theresa, never comfortable hogging the limelight, expected to make more use of her ministerial team

"On the advice of the campaign consultants, and following opinion research that showed Theresa to be far more popular than the party or her colleagues, we eschewed our instincts. We were wrong to do so.

“My biggest regret, however, is that we did not campaign in accordance with the insight that took Theresa to Downing Street in the first place. While the referendum result was undoubtedly an instruction for Britain to leave the EU, it was also a vote for change.”

Mr Timothy was responsible for writing the Conservative election manifesto, which included the controversial plans on social care funding which were dubbed the “dementia tax” by critics.

Defending his owen role in the Tory campaign, he said: "The manifesto was later written off as ‘the worst in history’. One of the criticisms is that, instead of offering voters giveaways and bribes, we spelt out where cuts would fall. While I accept that the manifesto might have been too ambitious, I worry that the implication of this argument is that politicians should not be straight with the electorate.

"The biggest complaint, though, was about our social care proposals. You can criticise the policy, but we need to be honest with ourselves. Since we have an ageing population, we need to spend more on health and care, and we need to decide how to pay for it.

"We can ask older people to meet the costs, subject to certain protections, from the wealth they have accrued through life, or we can tax younger generations even more. Somehow we have reached a point where older people with assets expect younger, poorer people to pay for their care. With Britain’s demographics, that is not sustainable; neither is it socially just."

At a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, Mrs May also admitted there were problems with the Tory strategy of targeting a small number of voters in seats rather than wider door-knocking campaigns.

A Tory source said: “The main thing about BME and youth voters is we need to do less micro-targeting, we've got to go back to knocking on everybody's door, rather than targeting certain people. That was her broad approach which I think people did sympathise with."