Australian strategist to lead Libertas campaign


ANTI-LISBON Treaty group Libertas has recruited the Australian political strategist who steered John Howard to four election victories and assisted Boris Johnson in his campaign to become mayor of London.

Lynton Crosby is directing Libertas’s Europe-wide campaign for the forthcoming European Parliament elections, a spokesman for the group confirmed to The Irish Times.

Libertas, founded by Tuam-based businessman Declan Ganley, plans to run more than 100 candidates across all 27 EU member states in an attempt to transform the June elections into a proxy referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The party will run three candidates in Ireland, including Mr Ganley who has announced his intention to stand in the North West constituency.

Mr Crosby, who directed the British Conservative Party’s 2005 general election campaign before taking on Boris Johnson’s bid for the London mayoralty, has been described as “the Australian Karl Rove” for his tactics, some of which have proved controversial in his home country in the past.

His decision to work for Libertas has raised eyebrows within Conservative circles in Britain.

It is expected Libertas will present a challenge for the Conservative Party in the European elections as both will be vying for the support of voters disillusioned with or opposed outright to the EU.

The move is “one of the most surprising turns” in Mr Crosby’s career, The Australiannewspaper said.

Mr Crosby told the paper his role with Libertas did not signal a rift with the Tories. “The Conservatives will only be contesting seats in Britain and I will be working with Libertas across the whole continent,” he said.

The Crosby appointment follows Libertas’s announcement earlier this month that it had hired Joe Trippi, an American political strategist who was instrumental in Howard Dean’s internet-savvy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Mr Trippi will co-ordinate the group’s online campaign which will focus on web-based fundraising and outreach, a Libertas spokesman said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Libertas will field a candidate in Malta in the European Parliament elections. Mary Gauci, a civil servant who recently resigned from her post as deputy leader of the right-wing Azzjoni Nazzjonal party, citing personal reasons, announced her candidacy at the official launch of the party in Malta on Saturday.

Mr Ganley, who was present at the launch, accused Maltese prime minister Lawrence Gonzi of signing the Lisbon Treaty without even reading it, and said the country’s parliament had barely discussed the document before agreeing to ratify it.

Mr Gonzi, however, dismissed the Libertas founder’s claims as “completely untrue” and “totally absurd”, according to reports in the Maltese media.

Ms Gauci, whose previous party has a strong anti-immigration stance, told reporters at the launch that illegal immigration was a “national wound” for Malta.