The Conservatives struggle to attract ethnic minorities supporters because they have "questions to answer" on race, one of David Cameron's advisers has admitted.
Shaun Bailey, who has been one of the prime minister's only black advisers, was speaking after a survey found the ethnic minority vote may be crucial to winning the next election.
The former parliamentary candidate said many black people were turned off the Tories because the party was associated with "the establishment" but admitted the problem went further than that.
"The Conservatives haven't been brilliant around race," he told a Telegraph podcast.
"I'm not telling you it's a whole big lie and they're spot on. No, they've had questions to [answer] and many of the questions they haven't answered.
"We need to speak about race. Our weakness is we don't talk about it. If we don't talk about it, the other side get to tell everyone what you believe about it. We need not to be afraid about it."
He added: "If someone said to me why I am so interested in politics and being an MP and all that, I want to show you can be of my race and my class and be a front bench member, a back bench member, a fully paid up member of the Conservative party. I think for our social progress it’s very important.
"You are in a fairly racist country. It's a fact. It's not as racist as America, but there's a lot of racism in this country. That is a fact."
Bailey was squeezed out of his job as a special adviser to the prime minister to make room for another influx of old Etonians, he alleged earlier this year.
He was given a part-time role in the Cabinet Office, telling friends it was because he was "different".
His comments come after an Operation Black Vote study found the number of seats where black and Asian votes could swing the election result had increased by 70% since 2010.
The study concluded that there were 168 marginal seats with an ethnic minority vote larger than the majority of the sitting MP, including seats in medium-sized urban areas like Southampton, Oxford, Sherwood, Ipswich and Northampton.
The finding has led many analysts to question whether the government recent anti-immigration initiatives, such as the so-called 'racist vans' and spot checks by UK Border Agency staff, might do more damage than good to the Tories' election strategy.