Mr Lewis says Tory support has now swelled to 500,000 if you include activists – almost equalling Labour’s recent membership surge. Six thousand Tory supporters have signed up since January alone.
Mr Lewis said: “Despite all the press coverage of our numbers being between 30 and 40,000 – although one journalist was quite generous and I think said we had 70,000. Another journalist told me very definitely 87,000 – actually it is just over 124,000. The figure is going up literally day by day.”
Branding Mr Corbyn “unpatriotic” over the Salisbury poisoning incident, Mr Lewis said growing numbers of voters were struggling to understand what Labour stands for.
“What we’ve seen this week is the sheer lack of ability to understand what leadership really is about, in stark contrast to Theresa May who has stood up to defend the United Kingdom and do the right thing by its people,” he said.
Tory membership has soared as the under 30s have turned their back on Jeremy Corbyn
The position Corbyn took is chance for people to see his feelings of our own country and what seems to be a real lack of patriotism
“The position Corbyn took on Monday and then shockingly doubled down on, on Wednesday is a very stark, transparent chance for people to see his feelings of our own country and what seems to be a real lack of patriotism and understanding of what’s important for the security of the people of Britain. I think that is quite shocking.”
Citing the Momentum takeover of councils ahead of May’s local elections, he added: “If you look at what’s happened in the Labour party – for a large number of people, both voters out there, parliamentarians, and Labour activists – the Labour party that they’ve been supporting for a very long period of time has gone.
“It’s not just Corbyn but what he has done to their professional organisational machine.”
Accusing the hard-left of the party of using “aggressive and often abusive” tactics, particularly on social media, the former policing minister said “the more moderate centrist side of the Labour has disappeared”, adding: “Moderate Labour MPs get some of the worse abuse from people who in theory are supposed to be on their side.”
He pointed out that Labour had not only refused to sign the Tories’ Respect pledge but also to create one of their own.
“We mustn’t allow the hard left to intimidate people off the political field – it puts people off politics,” said the 46-year-old MP for Great Yarmouth, who was made party chairman in the New Year reshuffle.
In the face of criticism the Conservatives have let membership number slide in recent years, Mr Lewis has set up a new central membership database and recruited a new director of marketing “to put together a membership package so people get more than an email and a membership card.”
On Friday, he launched the new youth wing of the party, saying: “more and more young people are wanting to get involved.”
“What we are finding as a party now and I am seeing from those 16 onwards is young people saying: “Look, I am under 30 and I’m fed up of being told I therefore must be a Corbynista.
“Actually they say: “I’m not, I want to go into commercial enterprise, I want to set up my own tech business. I’m entrepreneurial, I want to to succeed – I want to own my own home and I am a Conservative.” And literally in the last few months more and more are coming forward and getting involved.
“Young Conservatives are alive and proud and loud.”
Brandon Lewis says Tory support has now swelled to 500,000 if you include activists
Mr Lewis said part of the battle was reintroducing Conservative debate into left-leaning schools and universities. Last month, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg had to break up a scuffle when masked hard left protesters stormed a speech he was giving at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
“We’re going out in universities and tackling that head on,” he said. “We want to take on that debate and not be intimidated off of that platform. We saw what happened recently with one of our colleagues with a visit – we want to make the case for why it’s good to be a Conservative. Across so many university campuses we’ve got Conservative groups coming together.”
The party is also trying to tackle social media bias, particularly the “lies” being repeated about Government policies on platforms like Twitter.
Last week, the site was awash with claims the Tories planned to axe free school meals for “millions” of children, when an independent fact checker showed that under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals.
It came after the singer Lily Allen had to apologise for spreading fake news about Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and former Dragon’s Den investor James Caan had to clarify a tweet suggesting Britain’s new post-Brexit blue passport was going to cost millions when in fact the contract was up for renewal at no extra cost.
Mr Lewis said: “We’ve stepped up our digital presence and our rebuttals are getting much, much better. People across media platforms are spotting that and saying about some of Labour’s claims: “Hold on a minute, that’s not right.” There’s an awfully loud voice from certain parts of the left particularly in the social and digital media world – we’ve got to get out there and make our case.
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“There is a job to do in calling out why the Opposition is wrong or potentially dangerous in a particular area but actually the bulk of our job is giving people a positive reason to vote for us.”
Mr Lewis said now was the time for the Tories to capitalise on the opposition parties’ “confusion” over Brexit – and appeal to working class voters who feel disillusioned with the “liberal elite”.
“The Labour party and to an extent Vince Cable seem to be focused pretty much on a very liberal Islington type thing which is not focused on the actual issues that really matter to people.”
Referring to the Lib Dem leader’s controversial speech last week, in which he accused Brexit voters of being driven by a nostalgia for a time “when faces were white”, Mr Lewis added: “I don’t think anyone’s particularly listening to Vince any more. I thought what he said was offensive to millions of people.
Jeremy Corbyn speaking during Theresa May’s statement on response to nerve attack on Russian spy
“It’s a horrendous attack on democracy to generalise people in that way. People have a right to take a decision. And Labour have been in a complete mess on Brexit from the very beginning. Instead of being straight with people about where they are, they keep on trying to fudge the issue.”
Calling for Labour-run councils to do more to make efficiency savings, Mr Lewis said it was only right that local authorities – which make up 25 per cent of the public sector spending budget – shouldered their burden of austerity.
“Even now there are still huge opportunities for efficiencies and savings. Small local authorities who could do more to share chief executives, share senior management teams, procure things more joined up to get better savings – the councils who are doing that are literally saving millions of pounds every year. And the councils which are doing that tend to be led by Conservatives. “
Citing the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, in which Philip Hammond said there was fiscal light at the end of the tunnel after seven years of belt-tightening, Mr Lewis said: “We’ve fixed the roof actually while the sun’s not shining because of what Labour left. Now the sun is starting to come out – we’ve got an exciting future to look forward to.”