By Alex Stevenson
Conservative party donor Michael Ashcroft has attacked his party's lack of direction in an outspoken attack on David Cameron's leadership.
The millionaire criticised Mr Cameron's strategy of portraying Ed Miliband as an out-of-touch member of the "metropolitan elite" in an article for the Guardian newspaper.
He said the plan to paint Mr Miliband "as the Michael Dukakis of British politics" was a "terrible idea" which was unlikely to succeed. Mr Dukakis was the Democrats' presidential nominee in the 1988 election won by George Bush Sr.
"Painting Miliband as aloof could backfire on a prime minister who faces exactly the same charge," Lord Ashcroft wrote.
He argued that the Conservatives have limited ability to shape public perceptions of Mr Miliband.
Even if they did succeed the effect on Labour's support would be "minimal", while an "onslaught" against the Labour leader could actually damage Tory support.
"Voters think parties go on the attack when they have nothing to say for themselves," the Tory peer continued.
"A view is gaining ground that the government lacks direction, with the number of U-turns – each trivial in itself – suggesting policies are not properly thought through."
Lord Ashcroft had been a key player in Conservative strategy, having written an influential inquest into the party's 2005 general election defeat and bankrolling the targeting of marginal seats in the run-up to the 2010 election.
The row over his tax status in 2009 and early 2010 saw David Cameron forced to distance himself from the former Tory deputy chairman, however.
He suggested that the Conservatives "badly need a sense of direction" and concluded: "This is what should occupy the Tories, not a quest to make their opponents more unpopular.
"We already know what the polls look like when a government in a muddle faces an uninspiring opposition: they are the polls we have today."
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By Alex Stevenson
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