TORY high command has attempted to rebrand the Conservatives as the "workers' party" with Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, accusing Labour of being rooted in class warfare and class division.

Following on from Labour's own rebranding exercise 18 months ago when Ed Miliband labelled it the "one nation party", Grant Shapps, the Tory Chairman, yesterday used a speech to activists in London to seek to grab the blue-collar vote ahead of the European elections this spring and the General Election in 2015.

He said: "We are the party on the side of the whole nation. We are the party on the side of working people. Our politics isn't about a list of statistics or numbers. There's a moral purpose to it; a mission."

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Mr Shapps used the example of Sir John, who rose to the highest office from humble beginnings, as a "symbol of our party", insisting that the Tories were "not here to defend privilege; we are here to spread it".

The party chairman also unveiled a John Prescott-style pledge card, setting out the Tories' long-term economic plan, including reducing the deficit; cutting income tax; and reducing immigration.

But Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow cabinet office minister, brushed aside the claim that the Tories were the workers' party. He said: "You can't pose as the 'workers' party' when you've made working people £1600 worse off while cutting taxes for the wealthiest."