Senior Tory: David Cameron has made us a ‘party for the rich’

David Cameron has failed to shake off the Conservative's image as "a party of the one per cent" and now faces being ousted from Downing Street, a senior Tory said last night.

Former Conservative minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris said his party was suffering in the polls because of perceptions they are a party of the rich.

"Over the past five years one of the images David Cameron has never quite been able to shake off is the image of being the party of the one per cent," he told a meeting at the Centre for London think tank.

He compared Cameron's failure to connect with ordinary voters, to the success of his rival, Boris Johnson.

"It's very interesting how Boris is never thought of as being particularly posh despite being by any definition rather posher than David Cameron," he said.

Norris mocked Cameron's repeated attempts to shed his posh image.

"There he was taking poor old Samantha on a three star hotel holiday on Ryanair to Majorca. If I'd been Samantha I'd have divorced him. I mean sod it sunshine. I don't mind if you've got a few quid. Go out and spend it. Be who you are. Don't try and be something you're not."

"Unfortunately what it's meant is we are seen as being the party of the one per cent and a lot of the things he has done have managed to portray him in that way."

He said the party needed to change from the top down.

"It's not about legislative change it's about a change in attitude and approach and that can only come from the top of the party," he added.

Norris also attacked his party's failure to secure the votes of ethnic minorities and new migrants.

"In theory the Conservative party ought to be the party for new migrants. They are almost exclusively people who come here to work and to build and to bring families and to improve themselves and those are all the virtues that a party of people who aspire to improve themselves ought to be attracted to and we're not."

He warned that the Tories often appear to "resent" migrants.

"The general sense is that we sort of slightly resent newcomers because we like things just as they were. It's a more literal interpretation of what 'conservative' means. It certainly isn't why I ever joined the party but it's there."

Norris's comments followed those from fellow panelist Ben Page from pollsters Ipsos Mori, who suggested that voters are increasingly voting along ethnic lines in London.

Norris agreed with Page and said the party is now likely to lose in May.

"I suspect that on balance it is more likely to be a minority Labour administration," he said, before adding that a Conservative win was still possible.

Norris tipped leading backbencher Zac Goldsmith as a rising star in the party and the Tory's best chance of winning the London mayoralty next year.

"Zac Goldsmith would be enormously impressive [as mayor]. I love Zac in a bromance kind of way you understand. He's a terrific MP. He's massively respected in his seat."

Norris praised Goldsmith for not just spending his enormous personal wealth on drugs and trips abroad.

"He could be sitting on a beach stuffing coke up his nose. He doesn't. He works very hard for his constituents. He's got more money than you could shake a stick at. He's worth hundreds of millions and yet despite that he just works hard."

Responding to the comments on Twitter today, Goldsmith joked that he only did coke "on weekends and Bank Holidays".

Goldsmith has told friends that he is unlikely to stand for the London mayoralty in 2016, preferring to wait until 2020. However, he is coming under increasing pressure to reconsider. Norris said he thought Goldsmith could be persuaded.

"I know what he's going to do. He wants to get the [general] election out of the way and no candidate who has got any parliamentary ambition is going to say anything until after the election. But he doesn't need to say it. I will say it for him. He will be a great candidate.

"He would take votes from Labour. He would take votes from the Lib Dems. He would take votes from the Greens. And London loves a maverick."

Labour today leapt on Norris' comments about Cameron.

"This criticism from a senior Conservative is damaging and embarrassing for David Cameron. Even his own party think the prime minister stands only for a privileged few," Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth MP said.

"With David Cameron sparking a leadership contest, candidates resigning and the Chairman embroiled in scandal it is clear the Tory campaign is in chaos and turning in on itself."