Theresa May’s former chief of staff has hit out at the Conservatives’ election strategist for advising the Prime Minister to run a presidential-style campaign against her own instincts.
Nick Timothy, who quit Downing Street in the wake of the Tories’ poor election campaign, said the party was “wrong” to take advice to put all their efforts into promoting Mrs May as an individual, rather than running a traditional campaign with regular press conferences featuring a range of senior figures.
Mr Timothy accepted that the much-criticised Conservative manifesto, which he co-authored and included highly controversial proposals to reform social care, “might have been too ambitious”.
But he said his “biggest regret” was that the party did not campaign on the PM’s vision of social change.
While her plans to help the “just about managing” were included in the manifesto, the focus of the campaign was Mrs May’s argument that she was the right person to see Britain through the Brexit negotiations.
Writing in The Spectator magazine, Mr Timothy revealed Tory strategist Sir Lynton Crosby remained confident of a comfortable majority right up to the release of the shock exit poll on Thursday evening.
This showed that the Conservatives were projected to lose overall control of the House of Commons.
“Nobody inside CCHQ was prepared for election night’s 10pm exit poll,” he wrote, adding that Sir Lynton had texted earlier to say Tories would “do well”, while a late projection from polling guru Jim Messina forecast 371 seats, a majority of 92.
Setting out why he thought the Conservatives failed to win an overall majority, Mr Timothy said: “Because this election failed to produce the majority we needed, it is impossible to call the campaign anything but a failure.
“Before it began, we envisaged a return to traditional campaigning methods, with daily press conferences to scrutinise Labour and promote our policies.
“Theresa, never comfortable hogging the limelight, expected to make more use of her ministerial team.
“On the advice of the campaign consultants, and following opinion research that showed Theresa to be far more popular than the party or her colleagues, we eschewed our instincts.
“We were wrong to do so.”