Despairing conservative-minded public relations executives and lobbyists, worried by what they see as the party losing touch with grassroots supporters and struggling to articulate traditional Tory values, have formed a new group which will give "unofficial" policy advice to the party.
The group, Conservatives In Communications, was launched amid frustration with the party's direction under David Cameron. It will use polling information and business contacts to keep the party in touch with rank-and-file views, in a bid to avoid further embarrassing policy U-turns such as the retreat on NHS reforms.
Peter Bingle, chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs and a former Conservative councillor, has asked: "Why is the Coalition Government not pursuing a Tory agenda? Is the Tory party finished?"
Around 30 lobbyists and PR professionals attended the launch at the riverside penthouse flat of Kevin Bell, previously an adviser to Baroness Thatcher and a former executive at the Fleishmann-Hillard PR agency.
Lord Black of Brentwood, executive director of the Telegraph Media Group and a former Tory party communications director, is a leading figure in the group.
Lionel Zetter, a lobbyist and former Conservative agent who initiated the network, told The Independent: "We can provide a more pragmatic, non London-centric viewpoint and help to flag up policies which might be counter-productive or have unintended consequences."
The network will use its business contacts to give informal advice on policy development. "It's always useful for a party to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off," said Mr Zetter, a director of the pollsters ComRes. Mr Zetter said the group, which offers its advice for free, could work with the Treasury to help make the case for cutting the 50 per cent top rate of tax.