Tony Abbott Can Brush Off 'crises' Like Cameron Did, Says Lynton Crosby

Voters do not care about Tony Abbott’s alleged crises such as the Speaker resigning over the expenses row, according to Lynton Crosby, one of the advisers credited with helping David Cameron win the British election.

Crosby also reiterated his belief polls should be banned during election campaigns and that people, particularly journalists, put too much emphasis on them.

It’s not how smart you are, it’s your ability to connect with voters

Lynton Crosby

Speaking at the Australian British chamber of commerce, Crosby said voters are more concerned with who their daughter is dating than political crises and winning elections came down to being a stable leader with a clear message.

“Everything is a crisis, I think back over the prime ministership of David Cameron, every two or three weeks there was a crisis either for the [Conservative-Liberal Democrat] coalition or there was a crisis that determined there was no way he could be re-elected, everything is overstated,” he said.

Australian politics has been dominated recently by Bronwyn Bishop, an ally of Abbott’s who was forced to resign as Speaker over her expenses claims. Abbott accepted on Monday that he would pay a “little personal price” for the controversy.

But Crosby said: “[Commentators say] ‘Oh he’s [Tony Abbott] got a crisis with the Speaker, he’s got a crisis with this,’ for the punters who are just trying to get the kids to school, worry about the mortgage, see if they can upgrade their house and not very happy with their daughter’s boyfriend, these crises are becoming just ‘please pass the peanuts’.”

Crosby appeared with the partner in his consulting firm, pollster Mark Textor. The pair worked on Abbott’s successful 2013 election campaign, New Zealand prime minister John Key’s campaign and recently oversaw the re-election of Cameron which came as a surprise to commentators and many in the media.

Published polls in the lead up had the election as neck and neck and it was almost a certainty there would be another hung parliament but the Conservatives won on the night with a clear majority. Textor told Guardian Australia voters are “gaming” polls leading to wild outcomes.

Crosby said many were too busy watching the polls and not actually talking to the punters.

Tony Abbott has been asked a lot of questions about Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses claims. Tony Abbott has been asked a lot of questions about Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses claims. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

“A line of steadiness below all the static, that is the ultimate path that determines the outcome of the election and Cameron and Conservatives held that line, they held economic competence,” he said.

“Any conservative government has to own economic competence, you lose economic competence then you’re in serious trouble, generally if you’re a conservative you’re not embraced because you’re warm and fuzzy.”

Textor said the key was to simply move past “distraction X or distraction Y”.

Textor deflected a question from the moderator, Sky News political editor David Speers, about Abbott perfecting the technique of confecting “crises” in government while he was opposition leader, with Textor saying it was not about the blame but how governments dealt with situations.

“There’s a benefit in good policy for politics but good policy cannot happen without good politics,” he said.

“That’s harder now because there’s so many false signals, out of Twitter, out of online and the explosion of commentary. There’s not less good commentators, there’s just more crazy ones.”

The pair did not directly praise Abbott’s economic message of the past 23 months or stability but Crosby said he was a leader who could carry out reforms.

“Abbott won the 2010 campaign against Julia Gillard in terms of ability to communicate, I thought he was a very effective communicator then and I think he remains a very effective communicator.

“A lot of people deride simplicity as if they’re just using slogans but the ability to take a complex issue and communicate in a very simple and clear way, which I think Tony Abbott did then and did subsequently at the election he won and which David Cameron did, that skill is incredibly important,” Crosby said.

Voters always put David Cameron, pictured with wife Samantha, ahead on economic competence, said Lynton Crosby. Voters always put David Cameron, pictured with wife Samantha, ahead on economic competence, said Lynton Crosby. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s not who is the smartest person, as Tex says, it’s not how smart you are, it’s your ability to connect with voters and in a clear and simple way communicate to them so they have the confidence in you and your ability to deliver and they have the capacity to hold you to account because you’ve been very clear in what you say you’re going to deliver.”

  
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