David Cameron has hit back after a week of renewed criticism of his leadership, insisting that he would not make a "false choice" between traditional values and modernisation.
He attempted to stage a fightback with a highly personal speech after a summer marred by party in-fighting, defending his belief that the party could combine support for marriage and gay rights as well as promoting both wealth creation and quality of life.
But his initiative was overshadowed yesterday as it was confirmed that a millionaire businessman, Johan Eliasch, had become the third senior Conservative to become an adviser to Gordon Brown.
Mr Eliasch, who has lent £2.5m to the Conservatives, resigned earlier this week as a Conservative deputy treasurer and has been now appointed the Prime Minister's special representative on deforestation and clean energy. The businessman, who has championed efforts to save rainforests, will not renew his party membership, but he insisted he would not be joining Labour.
He said: "Climate change is my particular interest and I have already set up an organisation called Cool Earth to address this global issue.
"There is a universal agreement that climate change must be addressed, so this is not a political party issue and, therefore, I shall not be a member of any political party during this important work. I look forward to a very challenging task and hope to make a real difference to both UK domestic policy and global policy."
On Monday, the former Conservative frontbenchers John Bercow and Patrick Mercer agreed to become Government advisers, while the former Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram launched a broadside against Mr Cameron's leadership a day later.
Yesterday Mr Cameron attempted to play down Mr Eliasch's move and said the party would "come to an arrangement" over repaying his loans. He said: "He is a great expert in green and environmental matters and he has been asked to do a job by the Government on a non-party basis ... If this is a genuine attempt to involve experts it's a good thing. If it is low politics it is a bad thing."
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, accused Mr Brown yesterday of cynicism in bringing non-Labour figures into the Government. He said: "As leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown is perfectly entitled to make any Labour appointments he sees fit. But as Prime Minister, making appointments to government positions to score party political points is dangerously close to an abuse of the proper position of a prime minister.
"It is perfectly clear his over-riding motivation in a number of recent appointments of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has not been the unique expertise of the individuals but the fact that they belong to a different political party. It is deeply cynical.
"Gordon Brown promised a new honesty in politics. We are not seeing it."
In a speech to party candidates and activists yesterday, Mr Cameron attempted to draw a line under the splits and gaffes that have dogged the party over the summer. He said: "Forget about those on the left who say I shouldn't talk about Europe, crime or lower taxes, or those on the right who say I shouldn't talk about the NHS, the environment or well-being. That is a false choice and I will not make it.
* Patrick Mercer, the Newark MP, was sacked by David Cameron for making 'unacceptable' comments about the treatment of black soldiers. Labour joined the condemnation, but Gordon Brown has now invited him to advise the Government on security.
* John Bercow, the liberal-minded MP for Buckingham and an outspoken advocate of Tory modernisation, has had to deny speculation he could defect to Labour. But this week it was announced he is to head a standing commission on services for children with communication disabilities.
* Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner between 2000 and 2005, was invited by David Cameron to be the Tory candidate for the London mayoral elections. He turned the offer down and is now Gordon Brown's international security adviser.