Former chancellor George Osborne said he should have listened more to the concerns of voters as he warned that identity politics has now overtaken economic self-interest as the driving force of elections.
Mr Osborne said the Conservatives are well placed to catch the stronger nationalist mood of voters.
"I guess I assumed that you've got to get the economy going and then people see the benefits and it's good for people to be in work. I didn't understand that people want more than just that. They also want to feel that their views are understood and their voices listened to and that the system is working for them.
"My political generation was brought up on the West Wing 'It's the economy, stupid' view of politics. What's interesting is we've moved more to a politics of identity than a politics of the economy. But Conservatives are naturally better placed than the Left to have a deeper understanding of identity and issues of nationality,
"The 2015 election was framed around economic issues, but the referendum was framed more around issues of identity - and indeed people who voted to leave were very explicit that they were not voting to leave because they thought it would make them better off," he told The Times.
Mr Osborne, who was dropped from the Cabinet by Theresa May when she took over as Prime Minister in July, expressed alarm at the global implications of what is happening in Syria.
"Syria has got to represent the biggest strategic setback for the West in my lifetime. It feels like the West is having a crisis of confidence and the values that we cherish in the West we feel somewhat afraid to articulate, and we're not afraid to fight for what is right because we're nervous of getting into that fight, and that's a mistake in my view," he said.