Revealed: Saatchi's plan to get the Tories back in

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Indy Politics

The Conservative Party has been suffering from a form of mental illness which has blinded it to the power of modern means of communication, according to Maurice Saatchi, the man brought in by Michael Howard to plan the next election campaign.

His comments, made after the collapse of the last Tory government, suggest that he will want a radical break from the "myths" that have underpinned recent Tory strategy.

Lord Saatchi, appointed last week as co-chairman of the Tory party, was scathing about the kind of thinking behind Iain Duncan Smith's 2002 conference speech, with its catchphrase "Never underestimate the determination of a quiet man."

Six years ago, the man who planned Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election campaign delivered a lecture to the Conservative Mainstream Group, which was largely ignored at the time, but can now be expected to guide the Tories' election strategy.

Lord Saatchi said that the Tory mind had become "afflicted" by "seven deadly myths". One is that "there is no room for professionalism in Conservative politics". Lord Saatchi called for an end to the days when the party organisation was run by "gifted amateurs". Another myth is that "slick presentation and soundbites are no substitute for policy". These skills are "part of the job for a modern Prime Minister", Lord Saatchi claimed. "If he cannot 'do' media manipulation then he probably cannot carry people with him, so he is probably not up to the job, so he probably should not be hired," he added.

Then there is the myth that "you can't run a government by focus group". This notion can lead a party to ignore public opinion, for which it will receive a "punch on the nose".

He also suggested it was a myth that "people want a more 'caring' approach", when what the Tory party needs is to regain its reputation for being able to run the economy competently.

The last and "cruellest" myth on Lord Saatchi's list is that "the cycle will turn, so we'll soon be back". He warned prophetically, six years ago, that this could lull the Tories into thinking that success at the next election was guaranteed. By contrast, he paid tribute to the way Labour handled defeat in 1992.

"They analysed the reasons people had given for not voting Labour in previous elections, and removed them systematically," he wrote. "It was one of the bravest acts of political will in a generation."