Tory supremo has cracked the whip

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Indy Politics

Lynton Crosby has imposed a tough new regime on Tory backroom staff for the election in the campaign headquarters in Victoria Street.

Lynton Crosby has imposed a tough new regime on Tory backroom staff for the election in the campaign headquarters in Victoria Street.

Some staff members have to be in for the day's first meeting at 5.30am in his modern open-plan office, high above a Starbucks coffee shop, to review coverage in the morning papers. He was not happy at the reports that Tory tax cuts were unravelling.

Those summoned to his office near the boardroom on the fourth floor for the dawn meetings include: Gavin Barwell, the head of the voluntary section of the party and a former staffer for William Hague; George Eustace, head of press; and George Bridges, head of research. Mr Bridges, a former aide to John Major, is regarded as a "right-winger with attitude" and he gets on well with the no-nonsense Mr Crosby.

At about 7am, Mr Crosby calls the team together again for a further meeting but, this time, he includes Michael Howard's aides, such as Rachel Whetstone, his political adviser, Stephen Sherbourne, his chief of staff, and Guy Black, the Conservative director of communications.

They discuss lines of attack or defence for the party leader and senior Tories to be honed later. Yesterday, they made plans for a 12.30pm press conference hosted by Mr Howard to rubbish Labour's manifesto.

Some of Mr Crosby's staff have privately grumbled about being dragged into the office bleary-eyed for the early start. "I am not giving up my social life," said one socialite helper. "I'm not giving up going to supper with my friends but it is pretty tiring getting in so early. He must still be operating on Australian time." Mr Crosby is unimpressed by moans. "It helps us get on top for the day," he said.

With grey hair, cut short, and steel-rimmed spectacles, Mr Crosby looks fit and spare. He stood at the side of the press conference as Mr Howard presented the latest attack on Tony Blair. He does not court the press, and speaks to few journalists. He says he wants to avoid making the mistake made by Alastair Campbell.

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