David Cameron urges restive Tories to focus their energies on fighting Labour as he sought to quell unrest among activists over his leadership.
He used a speech to the party’s spring conference to insist he was sticking to traditional Tory values after a turbulent fortnight of internal division.
Mr Cameron suffered a damaging bout of leadership speculation and pressure to shift the party to the right after being beaten into third place by Ukip at the Eastleigh by-election.
He faces warnings from a new Tory group meeting at the conference that the party faces a “severe defeat” in 2015 if he fails to “reconnect” with party members and abandon gay marriage laws over which they have quit “in droves”.
Mr Cameron did not address the issue directly in his speech to the London gathering – which he used to insist he was engaged in fighting for an “aspiration nation” in line with the traditional Tory values of party icons Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
But he fired a warning shot that with less than 1,000 days until the next general election, the party had ” a real fight on our hands” and must concentrate on the real enemy.
“Anyone in this party who’s in any doubt who we should be fighting, what we should be debating, where our energies should be focused, I tell you: our battle is with Labour,” he declared.
“Let’s not mince our words: this is a bunch of self-satisfied, Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can, make decisions better than you can and tell you what to do and we should never, ever let that lot near government again.
“That’s who we’re fighting against.
“And we know who we’re fighting for: for all those who work hard and want to get on.”
He concluded: “Does this party ever shy away from the fight? No.
“I’m up for it. This party’s up for it. So let’s give it everything – I mean everything – we’ve got.”