The perception that the Conservatives are the the party of the rich will be a "major problem" for the party at the 2015 general election, a Tory MP who used to be David Cameron's press secretary has warned.
Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday evening that the party machine had become disorganised under the prime minister and that it was a mistake to reveal the strategy of targeting Ed Miliband personally.
"Labour's attack that we are the party of the rich has has some success, they have managed to get some traction," he said.
"I think thats quite damaging, if we go into the next election with people saying or feeling we're party of the rich that's going to be a major problem for us."
Eustice also warned ministers and Tory MPs in the Home Counties that they needed to be "very cautious" about policies such as regional pay which he said would not play well outside of the South East of England.
He said it would be hard to convince people in the North to vote Tory if the message was: "You're poor, you're not used to having money, so we're not giving you any."
It has been suggested that the government could vary public sector pay in different parts of the country as businesses in poorer areas have complained they can not attract good staff away from higher wages in the public sector.
Alluding to the row over whether chief whip Andrew Mitchell had called Downing Street police officers "plebs" during an expletive filled rant, Eustice said that recent "unforced errors" by Tory MPs had not helped the public's perception of the party.
Cheryl Gillan, who was fired as Welsh secretary by Cameron in his recent reshuffle, said that while the "last thing" she woud describe the prime minister as was a "snob", the party was unfairly viewed as a party of posh people.
"Yes, I do think it is a problem, it's a narrative repeated by detractors," she said.
Gillan also said the party was not communicating with voters, allowing Labour to frame the debate.
"Conservative governments usually have a reputation for competence, what we have been seeing recently is the party is being buffeted," she said. "We are a party that is losing our reputation for competence."
Eustice, who ran the press operation at Conservative HQ before becoming Cameron's press secretary in 2005, was critical of the current party machine which he said was more prone to "chaos" under Cameron than in the past under Michael Howard.
He said too often he heard the phrases "who agreed to this?", "did we know this was happening?" And "why wasn't I consulted?" being uttered in the halls of CCHQ.
Eustice also said the party should also not have let it be known it was relying on Ed Miliband being an ineffective Labour leader as a core part of it's strategy.
"It's been a mistake to have people briefing there is this strategy to say Ed Miliband is hopeless and no good, you might have a strategy to do that, but you don't go round telling everybody," he said