"Treasury ministers, in particular, believe they can look at whether there will be a need for cuts at the time of the pre-budget report in the autumn. They intend to use the report to show the scale of projected future savings, as well as how frontline services and new priorities can be protected by switching resources.
Labour still believes the Tories have made a political mistake by committing themselves to public spending cuts so early."
It rather supports Fraser's prediction that, following all their talk about "envelopes" and "projections," the Government will suddenly start saying those "cuts" aren't necessary after all. But it also suggests that they'll try to establish another dividing line: one between limited Labour cuts (which will be called "savings") and Tory cuts (which will be called "cuts," and caricatured as impacting "frontline services").
It's certainly more politically adept than Brown's crude "investment vs cuts" distinction - what isn't? - but it's barely less deceptive or fiscally incontinent. The task for the Tories is to pre-empt it by both emphasising the grand scale of Brown's debt crisis and the measures that will be required to fix it, and highlighting the government waste which could be jettisoned as part of their own package of "cuts". With Brown's message getting muddier and muddier, they've got the best headstart they could have hoped for.