Allies turn on Cameron ahead of conference

By Charles Maggs

The prime minister's strategy has been criticised by some big hitters within the Tory party just days before it gathers for its conference.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox, who is rapidly becoming a figurehead for disgruntled Tory right-wingers, joined justice secretary Chris Grayling and donor Lord Ashcroft when he raised questions about the direction of the party.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Fox argued for supply-side reforms and a stronger Conservative identity while warned that the party is losing support to Ukip over the key issue of Europe.

"The potential share of the Conservative vote sitting in the Ukip column of opinion polls should give us cause for real concern," he argued.

"But it is also a historic opportunity to keep faith with the British people. It is a chance to produce a defining Conservative position as the truly national party at the next election.

"We need a renegotiated relationship within a defined time and a referendum at the end."

Chris Grayling appeared to express similar concerns. In an interview with The House he called for a more Euro-sceptic stance from the government urging more "veto moments" from Cameron.

He too suggested that the party was loosing support amongst its base.

"I do not believe we can win the next election if have not got our supporters behind us," he argued.

"To win a general election, you have got to have people who are broadly in the Conservative family together united behind us.

"I think that’s something we have to work to do."

Lord Ashcroft has argued that the party needs to do more to attract potential Conservative voters

In his latest polling work he refers to "suspicious strivers" – people who want to better themselves economically, but are weary of being held back by a culture of "it's not what you know but who you know".

Ashcroft argues that this group amounts to around 15% of the electorate. It went to Maragret Thatcher in droves but they are now abandoning the party.

"They can see the Tories are for people who have achieved material success, it is not clear we are for people like them who do the right thing but have little to show for it.

"Cameron’s task next week is to show that we are."

The developments come as a new poll shows a majority of the public do n;t know what Cameron stands for.