Cameron faces dissent from the Tory grass roots

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David Cameron has rejected right-wing pressure to revert to traditional Tory policies on tax cuts and immigration, in spite of a drop in Tory membership numbers over the summer.

The drop in membership by 6,000 over recent months came as a blow to his leadership, but he made it clear that he would not change course over tax cuts.

The fall in membership was disclosed as the party announced the result of the ballot for Mr Cameron's strategy document, Built to Last putting economic stability before tax cuts and making the environment a central plank in the Tory policy platform.

It secured an overwhelming majority of 92 per cent, but only 26.7 per cent of eligible members voted on it. The total number eligible to vote fell from 253,689 when he won the leadership in December to 247,394. Although the fall was small, the party had hoped his style of leadership would boost Tory membership.

Tim Montgomerie, who runs the grassroots Conservativehome website, said it showed Mr Cameron was failing to win over his party.

"A lot of people are not enthused by the agenda David Cameron has set out," Mr Montgomerie said. "The fact that only around 20 per cent bothered to vote for it shows that. There is no excitement for Mr Cameron."

Edward Leigh, the right-wing chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, renewed demands for tax cuts on the eve of the ballot result, but MPs on the moderate wing of the party praised Mr Cameron for not losing his nerve.

Damian Green, a shadow minister for Immigration, said: "The overwhelming majority of the party is happy with the direction he is leading us in, and the majority of the British people seem to be happy with that."

Mr Cameron refused to bow to pressure, saying: "Conservatives support the vital changes that we have made over the last nine months."