Doubt cast on impact of Gaza strike on Tory election prospects

Israel's Gaza operation will not prove decisive in the 2015 general election, the Conservatives' election chief has reportedly said.

Lynton Crosby allegedly believes the prime minister has nothing to gain from taking a harder line against Israel, because the Muslim vote will not be "decisive" in 2015.

"Lynton says there are hardly any of our marginal seats where the Muslim vote will be a decisive factor" a senior Tory told the Times.

A Conservative spokesperson today denied that any such conversation with Crosby had ever taken place.

However, this is not the first time that he has been reported to have made similar comments.

In 2012 Crosby reportedly told Boris Johnson to ignore "the fucking Muslims" in his attempt to be re-elected as London Mayor.

"Lynton's view was that chasing the Muslim vote and other ethnic groups was a waste of time," a campaign source told the Daily Mail.

"And he frequently expressed himself in very strong terms. Some people found it very offensive."

Another insider told the Guardian: "He was dismissive of a lot of people. He was ruthless about who in the electorate was and wasn't worth bothering with.

"I remember him saying that if you put a headscarf around a bus, perhaps Muslims might vote for us."

The reported comments will infuriate those who believe Cameron's handling of the Gaza row risks alienating ethnic minority voters across the UK.

One minister claimed yesterday that the prime minister had "sown the seeds of our defeat" at the general election.

"Our failure in Gaza will damage any change of our Northern marginals and South East Lutons and Watfords," they told the Spectator.

"The Lib Dems will probably now keep Muslim voters who might have switched over to Labour and got us a gain. I fear Dave might have sown the seeds of our defeat at the general election."

Tory modernisers have repeatedly warned that the party faces being kept out of power for a generation if they fail to face up to the demographic changes taking place across the UK.

The PM yesterday faced a revolt from a number of senior Tories over his handling of the Gaza conflict.

Baroness Warsi's resignation over the issue, was followed by a number of supportive comments from other senior Conservatives including Dominic Grieve and the communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Clarification: The headline of this article was changed on August 15th

We issue the following clarification: "In an article published on August 6th, we quoted an unnamed senior Tory source in the Times who said Conservative electoral strategist Lynton Crosby believed there were only a limited number of key conservative marginal seats in which the Muslim vote could prove a decisive factor at the next election and that the impact of Israel's Gaza operation on the party's election prospects may be overstated.

"This was reported in a way which could have suggested that Crosby believed the party could 'ignore Muslims'. We have changed the headline so that this is not the case. Crosby is not understood to have used any such words and denies holding such views."