Sir John Major
The Conservatives 'wheeled out' Sir John Major to help their campaignGetty

Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has launched a scathing attack on his own party's social and education policies.

According to a report in the Mirror on 6 May - the day before Britain's tightest general election ever - Sir John told the Tory Reform Group annual dinner: "We need to acknowledge the fact we have a pretty substantial underclass and there are parts of our country where we have people who have not worked for two generations and whose children do not expect to work.

"How can it be that in a nation that is the fifth richest nation in the world, that in the United Kingdom we have four of the poorest areas in Europe? By Europe I include Eastern Europe in that question."

The report said that in the speech, made last week at a £150-a-head-dinner, Sir John admitted that the "quality of education" in Britain was not good enough.

Sir John said: "There two or three problems that we know are important. The quality of education in our cities is immeasurable and we cannot be proud of where we are in the education tables of quality education around the world."

An 'astonishing admission of Cameron''s failure'

The former Prime Minister - who held the post between 1992 and 1997 - criticised the Tories for failing to reach out to the black and minority ethnic community.

"We have to look, particularly at our relationship with the ethnic minorities. It is not remotely goodish. We have to understand that and we have to act about that. And I think we have to confront what has gone wrong in the past," he said.

Labour jumped on the speech, with Jon Ashworth, the party's shadow cabinet office minister, saying: "This is an astonishing admission of David Cameron's failure right from the top of the Conservative Party.

"And it's doubly embarrassing for the Prime Minister given just a few weeks ago the Tories wheeled John Major out in support as part of a desperate effort to shore up a failing campaign.

"Even the Tories know that this government has failed and has nothing to offer working people."