Theresa May’s “lazy” general election campaign was “hopeless” and “bitter”, a Conservative MP has said.
James Cleverly warned on Monday evening the party needed to engage young voters more and would be in a “very bad place” if it became nothing more than the “political wing of rural, aged, Britain”.
“On one end of the spectrum there are people who say it was the worst general election campaign in living memory. And at the other end of the spectrum there are people who say, to be fair, it was the worst election campaign ever. I am probably somewhere in-between the two frankly,” he said.
The Braintree MP was speaking to Tory activists at an event in Westminster hosted by the conservative Bright Blue think-tank.
Cleverly praised the prime minister as a “brilliant politician” and predicted she would survive in office for many years, but said the party had “learnt our lessons painfully”.
“It was in many respects a hopeless general election campaign and I mean hopeless in both senses of the word,” he said.
“It quite clearly did not accomplish what we hoped and expected to accomplish which was a solid working Conservative majority.
“But I also mean it was hopeless in the other sense of the word. It was devoid of hope. There was no sunny uplands. There was no light at the end of the the tunnel. It was a big spoon of bitter medicine with no sugar on top.”
He added: “There is a recognition that we have been sloppy and perhaps a bit lazy in actually putting ideas into the public domain.”
Cleverly said that while life for young people was “infinitely better than it was a generation ago” the Conservative Party had failed to convince voters this was the case.
“You’ve got people who are genuinely scared and worried, they are constantly being told their life is shit and going to get worse,” he said. “As Conservatives we have had no counter-narrative. We have just said to ourselves ‘that’s self evidently rubbish’ and left it at that.”
The backbencher also said the “massive bun fights” over the closure of libraries across the country was pointless as he had been told it was “cheaper to buy a Kindle to give it to every kid in the borough than keep the libraries open”.
“We didn’t get agitated over the closure of blacksmiths when people stopped riding horses and started driving cars,” he said.
“People consume media in a completely different way,” he said. “We have these understandable, but slightly out of time, attachments.”