EU referendum: Lynton Crosby is Tory Eurosceptics' choice to secure British exit

The 'Wizard of Oz' helped to mastermind David Cameron's election success

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs want Lynton Crosby, the Australian strategist who oversaw David Cameron’s pollster-defying re-election success, to take command of the campaign to secure Britain’s exit from the EU.

They believe that hiring the man dubbed the “Wizard of Oz” is their best chance of securing an exit vote in the in/out EU referendum due for 2017.

A leading Tory Eurosceptic said: “Lynton has been mentioned in conversations. I worked with him a lot before the election and when asked for my opinion I’ve told them that I’d be very happy to have him on our side. He’s a good guy.”

 

 

 

A senior member of the nascent exit campaign – which includes Business for Britain, Better Off Out and Get Britain Out (see panel) – said that colleagues were getting “very excited” about the strategy role, but thought that Mr Crosby was more likely to secure a lucrative corporate role. The source added that an overarching Out group is likely to be launched in September, so that it can hold events at the political party conferences starting later that month.

The In campaign, which will launch its “Yes to Europe” umbrella group next month, has also considered whether it should try to lure Mr Crosby but it is understood leading figures have decided against making an approach. Some In campaigners want Chuka Umunna, the charismatic shadow Business Secretary who surprisingly pulled out of the Labour leadership race earlier this month, to play a central role. He is known to be open to the idea.

The source said that the In campaign groups, which include British Influence, Business for New Europe and the European Movement, needed a “grassroots campaigner” rather than a pure political mastermind. The source added: “We need someone ASAP, ideally next month.”

Similarly, Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s sole MP, argued that the Out side should not be fronted by a politician, and suggested inventor Sir James Dyson as a credible leader. Best known for his unique vacuum cleaners, Sir James was once pro-European but last year advocated leaving the EU.

 

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Chuka Umunna is wanted by some to head up the In campaign (PA)

 

Interest in Mr Crosby has emerged as it was revealed that the Bank of England has set up a taskforce to probe the financial implications of exiting the EU. Officials accidentally emailed details of what is called “Project Bookend” to The Guardian on Friday, including embarrassing details on how to keep its work hidden from the press.

Mr Cameron meets Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, tomorrow, as he plans to push through his proposals for a renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU before the referendum. He is also under pressure to hold the poll one year early in 2016, with some big businesses particularly concerned that a long campaign could damage the economy.

Mr Crosby said he had not been approached by either campaign.

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