By Tim Montgomerie
During the Labour leadership race the Tories kept their guns quiet but, as I blogged before, they were watching closely:
"A senior campaigner at CCHQ was telling me that all of the Labour leadership candidates have significant weaknesses that he is looking forward to probing. The initial plan is to contrast Cameron and Clegg as strong leaders, taking the tough decisions, with a Labour leader who ducks the tough choices. My source tells me that Labour's multiple hustings have provided a goldmine of attack strategies for each of the leading candidates and the ammunition is being safely stored for when it is needed."
The ammo is leaving the storage depot today.
CCHQ believe that very difficult times lie ahead for the Coalition. They expect big Labour leads in the opinion polls within a few months but, as of tomorrow, they are also glad to finally have a Labour leader in place. "We've now got someone to shoot at," I was told yesterday and the shooting has started…
On Platform today George Eustice MP (Cameron's former press secretary) contrasts the exciting, "cathartic" Conservative leadership race of 2005 with today's dull and uninspiring Labour race.
But the most significant shooter this morning is Matt Hancock MP. Chief of Staff to George Osborne until just before the General Election. Mr Hancock was in The Times yesterday defending his former master's economic strategy. Today he launches a dossier on the unfunded spending commitments of David and Ed Miliband, made during the Labour leadership race. Interestingly the dossier was released via CCHQ. Hancock's is not a freelance operation. If emails could be fingerprint checked I suspect Mr Osborne would have left more than a few marks.
Matt Hancock's dossier accuses the two frontrunners of making unfunded promises of £67 billion in Ed Miliband's case and £55bn in David Miliband's case:
It is based on adding up three things:
1. The fact both candidates have backed Alistair Darling's plan for £44bn of deficit reduction.
2. Their opposition to Coalition measures to reduce the deficit, including the rise in VAT and the freeze in public spending.
3. New spending commitments that they have made while playing to the Labour gallery in the leadership contest. These commitments include a national living wage for public sector workers, electrification of the transport network and a 'National Care Service'.
CCHQ Believe that either Miliband can be painted, over time, as a dangerous risk to the nation's finances. They think Ed Miliband is much the easier target and they can't believe their luck that he is now the favourite to be announced Labour leader tomorrow.