London: Cameron needs to start behaving less like a “public school toff” and more like Nigel Farage, his former Tory council leader warned.
In a stinging open letter, Keith Mitchell said the “out of touch” Prime Minister needed to reconnect with the public in order to reverse the rise of Farage’s UKIP.
Mitchell - leader of Oxfordshire County Council until he stood down last week - also said grassroots activists were “close to extinction”.
In the letter posted on his blog, Mitchell said the Tories’ woes were not all about policy, or even Europe.
He said the Tory leadership needed to change its style - urging Cameron and others to take a leaf out of Mr Farage’s book.
“I am afraid the UKIP leader has a style and a manner of speaking that connects with ordinary mortals much better than professional politicians,” he said.
“He is unafraid to be filmed with a pint of beer and a cigarette in his hand when all of our media training tells us to eschew either image.
“He also uses soundbites that appeal to Conservatives.” His warning came as figures revealed UKIP enjoyed a 51 per cent surge in members during the past 12 months, with many of them defecting from the Conservative Party.
Membership of the anti-EU party surged from 17,220 to 26,097 in the year to April.
Conservative Party membership is thought to have fallen to around 130,000 from a peak under Cameron of more than 400,000. Some MPs say they have lost more than a quarter of their members in the last year alone.
In words aimed at the Prime Minister, Mr Mitchell added: “You and George [Osborne], in particular, have been portrayed as public school toffs.
“You have to work out how to be one of us without affectation or silly gimmicks and to speak the language of Joe Public.
“I understand how hard this is and the conflicting pressures on you, but people want a clearer and stronger style of leadership that speaks the language of conviction and leadership.”