The Conservatives are in discussions with the man who ran Boris Johnson’s successful Mayoral election campaigns to lead the party’s fight to retain power at the next election.
Talks are said to have taken place at a senior level in recent months between Downing Street and the political strategist Lynton Crosby.
Hiring Mr Crosby, who is credited with a string of successful election campaigns in this country, his native Australia and even the Maldives would be a significant move for the party.
However one sticking point is said to be a demand by Mr Crosby that his company Crosby Textor is given the contract for all internal party polling and research.
This is currently held by Populus – the company founded by Andrew Cooper who is currently David Cameron’s Director of Political Strategy.
Mr Crosby is also insisting on complete control over campaign messaging and strategy. Currently George Osborne holds the duel role as Chancellor and the Tories chief election strategist. However there is a growing realisation that as the General Election gets closer that this will become unsustainable and a new election chief will need to be brought in. Mr Osborne is not believed to object to giving up his role as strategist.
Mr Crosby has been a significant presence at this week’s Conservative conference in Birmingham and it is believed to have held talks with Mr Cameron’s aides and senior ministers around the fringes of the event.
Having failed to secure boundary reform the Tories face an uphill battle to overturn a commanding Labour poll lead and there is a growing realisation that they need to put an election strategy in place early if they are to stand any hope of retaining power.
One senior party source said: “No decision has been has been taken yet but we would like to get him in as soon as possible so we can start planning for the campaign.”
The move would be popular with Tory MPs who argue that Mr Osborne’s day-to-day responsibilities as Chancellor and a member of the coalition's decision-making “quad” of ministers means he is not able to “take a step back and think through strategy properly”.
Mr Crosby masterminded both Mr Johnson’s successful campaign for the London Mayoralty although his re-election was by a narrower majority than had been expected.
Mr Crosby has been described as a “master of the dark arts” who masterminded four successive election victories for John Howard in Australia. He also win power for the first democratically elected President of the Maldives
However he failed to help Michael Howard become the UK's Prime Minister in 2005 with a campaign which was criticised for its negativity.