Nicky Morgan
Nicky Morgan and Tory party leader David CameronReuters

A senior minister has revived notions of the Tories as the "nasty party" by claiming it dwells too much on "hate" and not enough on promoting a positive image.

Economic secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, told moderate Conservative party activists: "If we talk about what we hate all the time, we're not talking about we like and what we want to do to help people who want to do well."

Her words echo the remarks by home secretary Theresa May at the party's 2002 conference in which she said it was too often seen as the "nasty party".

Morgan, 41, said the party was always declaring "we're against this, we're anti-that, we don't like them, we don't want them here, we don't want them doing this."

"If we talk about what we hate all the time, we're not talking about we like and what we want to do to help people who want to do well.

"We never say actually, we are on the side of these people, we want this to happen and we think this is great," she said.

Morgan, seen as a rising star in the government was addressing a meeting of Tory activists.

She supported David Cameron's much-derided Big Society agenda, saying it had been exactly the right thing to talk about.

"I believe in people taking responsibility for their own lives. That's why I think the concepts of the Big Society and localism are so important and we should still be talking about them even though the phrases got a little bit tarnished, they were absolutely the right things to be talking about," she said.

Her remarks will be met with dismay inside Downing Street as they appear to be aimed at Cameron's key strategist Lynton Crosby, famous for his "dog whistle" approach to sending out messages.

She also appeared to be singling out the party's approach to immigration by suggesting one of the messages was "we don't want them here".

Lynton Crosby
Lynton Crosby advises Tories on message

In 2013, , planning minister Nick Boles told the same group that the party could never appeal to young people unless it started "shouting from the rooftops" about liberal policies such as gay marriage.

Otherwise, "a significant number of people will not even contemplate voting Conservative", he said.

Cameron has previously offered a more open and liberal approach on social issues, insisting that he was a "liberal Conservative". But he has lately faced claims he has tacked back to the right in an attempt to appeal to the party's core vote.

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