Tory backer set to quit party role
Controversial Tory backer Lord Ashcroft is to quit as the party's deputy chairman after delivering a stinging critique of its failure to secure outright victory at the general election, it has been reported.
The Sunday Telegraph said that the billionaire told David Cameron on Friday that he intended to resign at the next meeting of the Conservative Party board.
The paper also carries details of Lord Ashcroft's analysis of the party's election campaign - which he helped to finance - and its failure to produce a "thumping majority" for the Tories.
He concluded that the party failed to get its message across and that voters had "little clear idea" of what they stood for or what they would do in government.
He said that the relentless negative attacks on Labour were "unnecessary and counter-productive", while agreeing to the televised leaders' debates enabled the Liberal Democrats to to seize the "real change" initiative.
He pointed out that through 2008 and 2009 nearly all the published opinion polls were giving the Conservatives a double-digit lead over Labour. "Why did these figures not translate into a thumping majority? The key lies in the gap between the change people wanted and the change people thought we were offering," he wrote.
"Going into the election, many voters had little clear idea of what we stood for or what we intended to do in government. At a national level, too much of our message was focused on unnecessary and counter-productive attacks on Gordon Brown and Labour, which meant that voters were not clear about our own plans."
The Telegraph said that his comments were made in the executive summary of his 133-page book: Minority Verdict: The Conservative Party, the Voters and the 2010 Election. He told the paper that the book would be his "first and only contribution" to any public debate on the subject. "This is a record of what I thought at the time, and what I think now," he said.
Lord Ashcroft also made clear his frustration that he did not receive greater support from the party leadership when he was forced to admit in March that he had "non-dom" status and had not been paying income tax on his worldwide earnings.
A Conservative spokesman said: "Michael (Lord Ashcroft) helped to fight a great campaign and we're all extremely grateful for his tireless work as deputy chairman throughout the campaign. This book is part of the 'lessons learnt' exercise and we should welcome it. He has made a very significant contribution to the success of the Conservative Party and we thank him for his work and dedication."