By Ray Fleming

At short notice last week the government suddenly withdrew plans to require cigarette companies to sell their product in unnamed packets. Almost simultaneously the press discovered that Lynton Crosby, Prime Minister Cameron's most senior electoral advisor, is the boss of a public relations firm which has been advising Philip Morris Ltd on how to oppose these plans to reduce cigarette sales, especially to the young.

Mr Cameron's “convenient incuriosity” has enabled him to ignore the tax status of the Conservative Party's Vice-Chairman Lord Ashcroft, to fail to ask the former Sun editor Andy Coulson about phone-hacking before giving him a “second chance” as head of government communications, or to check on Culture minister Jeremy Hunt's close relations with News International before putting him in charge of an inquiry into its bid for BSkyB shares. Now add Lynton Crosby to the list.

We shall hear that Crosby has never mentioned cigarettes or Philip Morris to David Cameron at their frequent meetings about the 2015 election. We shall be told that Crosby works for the Conservative Party, not the government -- but, come on, please! Is it not possible that Crosby mentioned to Cameron, or someone close to him, that restrictive measures on the tobacco business might divert the electorate's attention from more important issues? But, in any case, it's the perception that matters. And, once more, it doesn't look good.


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