Tory leadership contender Sir Malcolm Rifkind yesterday outlined his vision of a Conservative Party capable of winning over the country and sweeping Labour out of office.

During a visit to Birmingham, the former Foreign Secretary said the Tory party needed to be "moderate, practical" and "problem-solving".

Sir Malcolm said it was time his party followed issues that mattered to ordinary people rather than political " agendas" like asylum.

And he underlined the importance of the Midlands to restoring Tory fortunes.

Speaking to The Birmingham Post at employment firm Pertemps in Newtown, he said: "You can't win a General Election unless you are doing well in the Midlands.

"The potential is there. You have a lot of people who used to vote Tory and who have stopped doing so and can be won back in the right circumstances.

"You have a lot of young voters who are pretty fed up with the Labour Party. But for a Government to change needs two things - people fed up and people attracted by the alternative."

Sir Malcolm was in Birmingham as part of a national tour to back his leadership campaign.

Rather than visiting Tory strongholds like Surrey and Hampshire, he has focused on places like Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff and Scotland which, he says, present the "real challenges for the Conservative Party.

"These visits say to me the Conservative Party must base its strategy on being a moderate, practical, problem-solving party," he said.

"What the public is not interested in is ideology and party politics. They are interested in whether you have real solutions to meeting their aspirations."

Sir Malcolm, who served under the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said a failure to focus on this had cost the party the last election.

"We have made some modest ground but not the progress we should have made after eight years in opposition," he said.

"So we have to learn the lessons of that experience. When you fight a General Election it is the public who will decide the agenda, not the politicians.

Sir Malcolm said his vision of a winning Tory Party was one that followed the "One Nation tradition" and focused on being "pragmatic and problem-solving".

He dismissed the need for a youthful leader to capture the imagination of the public.

"It shouldn't just be a beauty parade," said the 59-year-old. "The party has to decide what its identity and priorities are and then choose a leader who can best promote that.

"In the short-term people will be influenced by how someone looks on TV and things like age.

"But actually most people are pretty bright. That doesn't decide whether that will make them a good or bad Prime Minister.

"Like the election, they will decide whether that person has the policies and vision and calibre to lead the party."

Sir Malcolm believes his experience makes him that candidate.

"I have served as a Cabinet Member for 11 years. I have worked with two previous Prime Minister," he said. "I know what the job requirements are."