Anna Soubry has warned the Conservative Party it is at risk losing “a generation” of voters and being consigned to the “wilderness”.
Ahead of the local elections in May, the former Tory minister said her party was now in a “terrible mess” and had allowed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to be seen as the party of business.
She said Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had made himself sound “plausible” on the economy.
“We are actually finding that John McDonnell is more accurately reflecting the views of British business, McDonnell, more accurately reflecting their views, their demands of Brexit, than us as Tories - the party that always that stood up for business. It is indeed absolutely shameful,” she said.
Soubry, one of the most pro-Remain Tory backbenchers, was speaking to young liberal Conservative members of the Tory Reform Group in a Westminster pub on Monday evening.
Soubry said last night: “We have got to make sure we attract into our party a diverse background of people. I think we have a big problem.
“We certainly have lost the Muslim vote and there is no excuse for that. Because if there is any ethnic group that completely shares traditional Conservative values, it’s actually our great Muslim community and we have lost them for all sorts of reasons. We now need to win them back.”
She added that “not enough young women are involved in our party and that really does concern me and we have got to look at that and address it.
“If we begin to do all of these things we have a great and glorious future ahead of us.
“But if we don’t, if we are not firmly in that centre-ground, and being brave and radical, then we are going to lose a generation which is what happened when I was your age and we spent 13 years in the wilderness with a Labour government.”
We certainly have lost the Muslim vote and there is no excuse for that. Because if there is any ethnic group that completely shares traditional Conservative values, it’s actually our great Muslim community and we have lost them for all sorts of reasons. We now need to win them back. Anna Soubry
The Tories are on course for a record low number of councillors in London in this year’s local elections.
Robert Hayward, one of the party’s veteran pollsters, warned yesterday Theresa May was facing a meltdown in the capital with the loss of more than 100 seats.
Soubry predicted that while Corbyn was a “proper Brexiteer” and a “proper old Leftist, Bennite, anti-EU” politician, he would shift to a more pro-Remain position.
“If we do badly in the May elections, and that’s what the indications show, Labour will shift their position to [membership of] the Single Market,” she said.
“Have they changed their views? Of course not. They are doing it because the can see the shift in public opinion. And if that happens we will be absolutely painted as the party of the hard Brexit and even more bizarrely the party that’s anti-business.”
Labour, as with the Conservative Party, is currently opposed to the UK remaining a member of the Single Market after Brexit.
Soubry, a former business minister, said: “John McDonnell is genuinely in my opinion a highly unpleasant man, a very dangerous man.
“One of the things that makes him so dangerous is not just because he’s plausible, he always sounds so damn reasonable when he goes on the tele, but also he is highly alert and tuned-in to public opinion.”
Soubry also said May had accepted a “poisoned chalice” in choosing to become prime minister given the “deep running sore” of Brexit risked finally tearing the Conservative Party apart.
“What you do find in Theresa is somebody who is determined to keep our party together. Whether she can achieve that I don’t know,” she said.