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David Cameron has hired the man behind Boris Johnson’s London Mayoral successes to boost Tory re-election prospects, according to Downing Street sources.

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Australian Lynton Crosby is reportedly set to start work within weeks as the Tory leader seeks to beef-up his operation ahead of the next general election in 2015.

The return of the figure closely associated with the Tories’ failed crime and immigration-centred 2005 campaign under Michael Howard has divided opinion in the party.

But Mr Johnson, whose two successful London mayoral campaigns were run by Mr Crosby, has played down his right-wing reputation and urged the Prime Minister to “break the piggy bank” to get him on board.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of influential website ConservativeHome, said Mr Crosby had “a good record of success and is perhaps the Alpha Male that Team Cameron has been missing since Andy Coulson exited.

“Coming on top of the decision to target 20 Lib Dem MPs, it is a sign that Team Cameron is re-gearing for the kind of ambitious campaign that will be necessary to win a majority at the next election,” he wrote.

But Mr Johnson has been forced to defend the strategist against claims about a foul-mouthed rant during this years London mayoral election.

Today’s Mail on Sunday quoted a source suggesting he had sworn when referring to Muslims.

A spokesman for Mr Crosby told the newspaper that he had “absolutely no recollection” of using the phrase and said it was “mischievous” to suggest he was racist.

Mr Johnson insisted Mr Crosby was “one of the sweetest nicest guys I’ve ever met.

“I don’t recognise this characterisation. He’s the best campaign manager I’ve ever seen. The Conservative Party has done well to retain his services.”

The mayor’s official spokesman also said Mr Johnson had no recollection of the alleged conversation in question.

“The Mayor would recognise that there were debates over the direction of strategy during the campaign. What he would not recognise is any suggestion of abusive or offensive language directed at any particular group of voters from any member of his campaign staff.”

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