If the Conservative Party loses the general election in May it will be because it fails to understand the country it wishes to run, according to a former Tory minister.
In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, David Cameron's ex-development minister Sir Alan Duncan says the prime minister can beat Ed Miliband in May, but only if he presents a "vision" and stops trying to "administer our way to victory".
"Conservatism has always been effective when it understands the country it aspires to govern. And I don’t think we do understand all corners of the country any more. We’ve only got one MP in Scotland. We understand our cities, particularly our northern cities, less and less," he says.
"We are retreating and shrinking into safe… areas which means that our overall percentage of support is diminishing. We need to understand the entire country we aspire to govern."
In the interview with HuffPost UK, Duncan also:
- Criticises Ukip as a "bucket for people to spit in".
- Reveals he wishes the UK had "never joined" the European Union.
- Warns Tory MPs were retiring because parliament has become "shallow, inexperienced, short-termist and petty".
- Dismisses TV election debates as damaging spectacles that "belittle politics".
- Worries a minority Tory government would be weak and do "almost nothing".
- Characterises Ed Miliband as "by far the more normal of the two brothers".
- And speaks about the "injustice" in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Duncan has long been identified with the so-called modernising wing of the Tories. He served as a DfiD minister from 2010 until July 2014. Free from the restrictions of office, he makes clear he has no time for traditionalist "fuddy-duddy approaches" to society.
He says the Conservative Party would be in a "far stronger position if we had made a stand on things which are controversial in the short term but respected in the long term".
"What disappoints me most is we seem less prepared to make a clear stand on something we believe in for fear of offending people, of losing support," he says.
The Tories and Labour are still running neck and neck, according to the latest polling by Lord Ashcroft - although both were down a point on last week at 31%.
Duncan says a majority is within grasp if the Tories, and their leader, campaign with "a bit of passion with a bit of vigour".
Asked if Cameron has the "tingle factor" that he wants, Duncan says: "If he pushes the button and goes for it, yes he does. He did it over Scotland. He’s quite good when he gets angry." The prime minister, Duncan added, was the "best of the bunch" to lead the party at this time.
He added: "We’ve got [less than] 100 days to make it clearer what we stand for and I think that would bank more votes, reap dividends and give people a proper reason for believing in us. We’ve got to work out what it is we are selling. We cannot administer our way to victory."
Read Mehdi Hasan's full interview with Alan Duncan on whether the Conservatives can win, being the first gay Tory MP, David Cameron, the European Union, Ukip, Israel-Palestine and more.