Ashcroft to quit top Tory role

Lord Ashcroft is to stand down as the Conservative deputy chairman, leaving amid a flurry of criticism of the party’s failure to secure a Commons majority in spite of the money and time he poured into its election campaign.

The controversial peer believes key campaign tactics were wrong, including David Cameron’s decision to take part in live television debates, which he believes allowed Nick Clegg to seize the “real change” initiative.

Lord Ashcroft also says the Tories failed to get their message across on how they would change the country and says the campaign became sidetracked by counterproductive attacks on Gordon Brown.

He is expected to publish his critique of the campaign on Monday and will resign as deputy chairman of the party next week.

In March, he had to reveal that he had enjoyed the status of a “non-dom”. Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat peer who produced a bill to ban non-dom peers, said: “I’m delighted Lord Ashcroft is doing his bit for coalition harmony by standing down.”

Lord Ashcroft’s critique of the Tory campaign, “Minority Verdict”, is robust, but not as scathing as some in Central Office had feared. He says it is meant as constructive criticism and that the party should be “proud” of the election result.

The Sunday Telegraph reported extracts, including: “Going into the election, many voters had little clear idea of what we stood for or what we intended to do in government.

“At a national level, too much of our message was focused on unnecessary and counterproductive attacks on Gordon Brown and Labour, which meant that voters were not clear about our own plans.”

The peer has been deputy chairman of the Tory party since 2005, masterminding a strategy in target seats and overseeing internal polling.

A Conservative spokesman said: “Michael helped to fight a great campaign and we’re all extremely grateful for his tireless work as deputy chairman throughout the campaign. This book is part of the ‘lessons learnt’ exercise and we should welcome it.”

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