Michael Portillo, the former Conservative minister-turned-TV-personality, has accused Tory leader David Cameron of “losing his nerve” over the rebranding of the party after it faltered in opinion polls.
Portillo, who made the comments during the keynote speech to delegates at The Marketing Forum, said that the dip in the polls had allowed observers to criticise Cameron and his strategy.
He added that Cameron knows that he needs to change the party from the inside but that he had not “succeeded sufficiently”. He said that Cameron is trying to attract a more diverse range of candidates to the party by introducing quotas: “To change, you need to change the people at the heart of the party. He is trying but it has not been as successful as he hoped.”
Portillo’s comments came on the same day that Cameron hit out at the Tory old guard and told them to stop handing ammunition to Gordon Brown. He said he wanted all Conservatives “to think carefully before they opened their mouths” and called his critics “blasts from the past”.
Portillo told the conference that politics is “all about brand” now and pointed to Tony Blair’s successful reinvention of the Labour Party ten years ago as an example of how it can be done. He said that Blair had worked out what people did not like about Labour and then set about talking about issues that had not been previously associated with the party.
He added that Cameron was doing the same thing by associating the Conservatives with issues such as health and the environment but he said that the strategy had stalled in recent months.
In his speech, called A Game of Two Halves, Portillo talked about how his humiliating defeat in the 1997 election had created new opportunities for him, such as his TV career.