Saatchi sidelined for Tory campaign

Maurice Saatchi's iron grip on the Conservative Party's general election campaign has been weakened amid infighting over its strategy and its poor performance in the opinion polls.

The Tory peer, who is the party's co-chairman, is said by party insiders to have lost influence following the recruitment of Lynton Crosby, an Australian who has helped John Howard, the Australian prime minister, to win four election victories.

Crosby, who was appointed as the Tories' election campaign director in October, has wrested some power from Saatchi and Liam Fox, the party's other co-chairman, to sharpen up campaigning.

One likely casualty is the party's "Timetable for Action" slogan, unveiled at the Tories' annual conference in October. The slogan was unveiled by Immediate Sales, a subsidiary of M&C Saatchi, whose chief executive, Michael Mosynski, is a keen Tory supporter. But critics claim it is too bland.

However, Tory sources said Immediate Sales would keep its role as the party's agency for the election.