‘Stain of racism’? The Ashcroft-Crosby feud continues

The war of words between Tory donor Michael Ashcroft and election strategist Lynton Crosby continued today, after reports emerged of a new bout of hostilities.

Crosby's appointment sparked bad headlines for the Conservative party after he was reported to have used the phrase "f***ing Muslims" while working on Boris Johnson's campaign.

"The danger is that other people will see it as racist," the Daily Mail reported Ashcroft to have said during a parliamentary awards ceremony last week.

"Some people may assume he means effing Muslims, effing blacks and all effing immigrants and will not appreciate that Muslim is a religion not a race.

"When I heard about Mr Crosby's comment, I was sorely tempted to send him a list of nine Muslims who have won the Victoria Cross fighting for this country," the military historian added.

The controversy highlights a fundamental division in the Tory party about its best chance of winning re-election in 2015.

Ashcroft is a keen advocate of reaching out to Muslim and minority voters and has commissioned research on the best way to do it. That view was been substantiated after strategists pinned the blame for Mitt Romney's defeat in the US on failing to appeal to Hispanic voters.

On the other side, Crosby renown for his ability to get out core right-wing supporters by hammering away on issues like immigration and law and order. He is understood to think it is "a waste of time" for a right-of-centre party to seek the Muslim vote.

The reported comments come amid allegations Crosby sidelined a Sikh aide because he promoted the idea of making Tories more appealing to ethnic minority voters.

Crosby is expected to earn £20,000 a month for just one week's work when he starts at Conservative HQ.