Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosby tells ministers: Stop announcing minor policies

Government departments have effectively been banned from promoting initiatives that are not central to the party’s key election themes of crime, the economy, immigration and welfare

Conservative ministers have been ordered by Downing Street to stop making Government announcements that “distract” from the party’s core election messages.

Political strategists in Number 10 have issued an edict to Government departments effectively banning them from promoting initiatives that are not central to the party’s key election themes of crime, the economy, immigration and welfare.

The plan is understood to be the brainchild of the Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosby, who last year told David Cameron to “get the barnacles off the boat” in order to win in 2015. He wants to stop ministers “freelancing”, promoting themselves and their “pet projects” and confusing voters about what the Government stands for.

Policy areas likely to be affected by the new edict include announcements on international aid, the badger cull, and the Tory-backed Green Deal to improve energy efficiency.

But the move has irritated some Tory ministers, who claim it amounts to censorship by Downing Street and will allow the Liberal Democrats to take credit for the Government’s more socially liberal policies. The Liberal Democrats have made clear to their Conservative partners that their ministers will be free to speak out as they like.

Under a system set up by New Labour, and continued by the Coalition, all Government initiatives have to be cleared by Downing Street and put on a “grid” of announcements. The system is designed to allow the Prime Minister’s aides to co-ordinate Government activity and try to shape the media agenda by ensuring that important announcements don’t clash or appear contradictory.

Government sources said that over the last two weeks a significant number of announcements had been “culled” from the grid.

Ministers have been told that policy papers can still be published online, but they should not be promoted by departmental press offices or be accompanied by ministerial speeches. Controversially, the new policy is understood to also cover arms-length bodies such as the Environment Agency, which are supposed to be independent.

“Everyone has been told that ministers should only be making announcements that will help the party win the election in 2015,” said one Tory source. “That means talking about crime, immigration, welfare and the economy and not talking about foreign aid, the NHS or the Big Society. Most people understand where they’re coming from but a few ministers are feeling a bit put out that they’re effectively being told to shut up.”

A Government source added that Downing Street was increasingly frustrated by the number of small announcements coming from Whitehall departments on a weekly basis. “It’s about being disciplined and not trying to parade dozens of different policies all on the same day,” they said.

Several Government sources said they understood that Mr Crosby had initiated the move in response to his increasing frustration at “message indiscipline” within Government.

“Lynton has been telling them for months to make sure that everything coming out of Government reinforces the party’s core election message,” said one. “But so far it hasn’t worked.”

However Downing Street source played down the significance of the new edict.

“There are 365 days in the year and we are going to keep talking about all the issues where this Government is working hard to improve public services and build a sustainable recovery,” they said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report