The Tories have consistently denied that Downing Street chief of staff Nick Timothy worked directly on the expenses scandal-hit South Thanet campaign. CCHQ’s line has been that Timothy only “provided assistance for the Conservative Party’s national team“. Tim Ross’ book ‘Why the Tories won‘ – the authoritative inside account of the 2015 general election – tells a very different story. By this account Timothy was drafted in by Lynton Crosby to “take charge” of the Thanet campaign:
Lynton Crosby called in Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s special adviser, who had experience of working on successful by-election campaigns before the 2010 election. He was sent to take charge of the party’s ﬂagging campaign to stop Farage in Thanet, where Henry Macrory, the party’s former press chief, and Marion Little, from CCHQ’s campaign team, were already on the ground. The CCHQ reinforcements found a campaign in Thanet devoid of effective messages, with no strategy for turning the tide….
Ross also places Timothy at a restaurant in Thanet when one Nigel Farage walked in:
On one otherwise unexceptional evening, Farage, his election strategist, Chris Bruni-Lowe, and a number of other team members were enjoying a meal and relaxing over a few drinks – or maybe more than a few, after a long day, one of those present recalls. At a table across the room sat the rival Conservative team, including Henry Macrory and Nick Timothy. Farage spotted the table of Tories and, ever the bon viveur, picked up his glass and wandered over to engage them in conversation. ‘So this is what I’m up against, is it?’ the UKIP leader joked, in an attempt to break the ice. But there was no sign of a thaw. The table of Conservatives put down their forks and turned to Farage, ﬁxing him with a hard stare. ‘We all just kind of looked at him and didn’t really say anything. After a while he went away,’ one of the Tories recalls. Another source says the Conservatives muttered abuse at Farage and told him he was ‘splitting the right’ and risked allowing Labour to win. Farage quickly concluded his attempt to socialise with the enemy would be fruitless and so he left. ‘Well, if they want to be rude, fuck ’em,’ he thought as he returned to his table and sat back down.
The original Tory line on this is in danger of blowing up…
Guido hears the Telegraph’s respected Senior Political Correspondent Tim Ross is leaving to join Bloomberg. Author of ‘Why the Tories won‘, Ross pretty much writes the paper on Sundays so that will be a major gap to fill. He’ll be working for Bloomberg in Westminster with a focus on Brexit. The Lobby team at the Telegraph has so far been relatively incubated from job losses. But would you really want to stay?