Ex-Conservative Party chairman Maurice Saatchi has issued a damning verdict on their recent election campaign.
Lord Saatchi says the Tories were afraid to talk about the economy
Explaining how he "lost the election", Lord Saatchi says he did not convince the Tories that if "you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".
In a new pamphlet, the advertising guru says the party fought a "Basil Fawlty election - don't mention the economy".
He also suggests four essentials for a new leader, including a noble purpose and a sense of direction.
A fight against injustice and a destination are also tests of their convictions, argues Lord Saatchi in the Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet.
Standing for nothing?
Lord Saatchi helped to get Margaret Thatcher elected as prime minister in 1979 with the poster slogan "Britain isn't working" to attack unemployment under Labour.
He was appointed Conservative co-chairman in the run up to the election and says he blames himself for the defeat.
Lord Saatchi said he hoped that by applying his tests the Tories would "avoid a situation in which the leader's life at the top only lasts for 18 months".
"My recommendation for that is to concentrate on moral purpose - and that's what I'd say to all of them," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"It's my view that human dignity - an attribute which for years has been taken by the Left in British politics - resides in fact in Tory values of independence, individuality and self determination."
Having articulated a moral purpose for Conservatism "many other wonderful things will fall into place", he said.
Sense of purpose
In his leaflet, the peer points to how the Tories under Mrs Thatcher made a moral case for lower taxes and a smaller state - but suggests the party now talks of ideology in negative terms.
"If you stand for something you will have people for you and people against you," he argues. "But if you stand for nothing you will have nobody for you and nobody against you."
Lord Saatchi argues the Conservatives must show their deep belief in the "free and independent individual".
He also says the Conservatives are still baffled by Labour "stealing its clothes".
"Ever since New Labour put on Tory economic clothes, Conservatives have been in a blue funk about economics leading to fear and/or silence on the subject [in the election]," he says.
"We have lost our moral and electoral bearings in the fog."
Runners and riders
The Conservatives have been "painfully slow" to accept that Labour has moved from being a Marxist/socialist party to being a modern social democratic party.
His advice comes as the potential Tory leadership contenders continue to put forward their visions of what the party needs to do in newspaper articles and speeches.
Possible candidates include: David Davis, David Cameron, Ken Clarke, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Alan Duncan, Liam Fox and Theresa May.
What should the Tories do to reinvent themselves?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The Tories rightly recognise that under 35's are more likely to vote against them as for them, I am one of that number. Since the 80s all they stood for is greed and self interest and I have seen nothing to indicate they have changed this stance and this is at a time when we have a deeply unpopular government.
How on earth can the Tories have any policies, positive or negative, based on the rugged indivualism which underpins basic conservatism when said policies have already been nicked by Mr Blair for his own use? Perhaps the Conservative Party should rename itself New New Labour.
Mike, London, UK
Family, family, family. The Tories should centre their policies around safeguarding and strengthening the family and its cement, the institution of marriage as the building blocks of a successful society.
Greg, St Albans
Firstly the Tories must change their ideology, whilst they remain firmly stuck in the 1800's with their views on worker's rights, the welfare state and Rule Britannia mentality they deserve to be in the political wilderness. They are seen as the party of the 'Haves', until they change this perception and admit their dreadful mistakes of the Thatcher years then the popular vote will continue to elude them; and rightly so in my view!
Paul Jackson, Darlington, Co Durham
Lord Saatchi says nothing new. It's a cause of continual frustration that the main Opposition Party is devoid of the skill and passion to articulate a message that sticks. I think Michael Howard gave the party hope, but the infrastructure isn't there. Perhaps some should spend less time on outside interests and more on getting the party elected?
Terry, London, UK
The Tories probably need do little more than listen to Lord Saatchi's comments and then act on them. His comments about human dignity and belief in the 'free and independent individual' are absolutely spot on and are a marked contrast to the impression the current government gives of wanting to monitor our every move while giving the greatest assistance to those unwilling to help themselves and penalising everyone else.
Alan Boulton, Tamworth, Staffs
The Tories will never win an election again as long as they stick to their outdated "values". They fail to realise, that they only appeal to a small section of the people, the foxhunters etc, and the wealthy and privileged classes. As for tax cutting the Tories made a science of raising taxes the Poll tax being the cause of their downfall. Tom Leeds
Thomas Lowry, Leeds, UK
There is little they can do but wait and hope. Elections are not won; they are lost. Governments change only when something is perceived to be very wrong. And when that happens all other parties have the chance to develop alternative policies. So if the Tories can guess correctly what might go wrong in future they might have a chance to evolve. However their core following is rather set in the past and may consign them to minority party status.
Alex, London, UK
The Conservatives don't need to reinvent themselves but to rediscover their origins. If they need motivating, they need only look at the curtailing of personal freedom that is taking place under the present government.
Denzil, Devon, UK
The Tories need to remember what they once stood for back in the days of Disraeli. The Conservative Party used to be a One Nation party, a party which stood for the common interests of the country as opposed to the interests of a handful of right wing reactionaries. Strengthening the nation by leaving the EU, standing up for civil liberties by opposing the government's plans for increased authoritarian policies, and improving the opportunities for those less well off in society through rigorous educational reform. That is what once made the Tories prosperous, and that is where their future should lie.
Colin Hoad, Surrey, England
They are seen as the party of the past, standing for the class-ridden, deferent society of the last century. To reinvent themselves they need to prove they have moved beyond this with radical policies like ending the monarchy, abolishing the house of lords, leaving the EU and other hard right policies. The middle ground just isn't big enough for two parties.
Matt Munro, Bristol, UK