James Forsyth

Readying the bombardment

Readying the bombardment
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Westminster might be in holiday mode, but behind the scenes the coalition is preparing to take on the new Labour leader. As I say in the Mail on Sunday, the coalition is determined to hit whichever Miliband wins early and hard. The Cameroons believe that Tony Blair’s decision not to attack Cameron straight away in 2005 was crucial in allowing him to present himself to the public on his own terms. By contrast, both Hague and Duncan Smith were made to look like losers by the Labour attack machine within months of becoming leader of the opposition.

The result of the Labour leadership election will be announced on the 25th of September. But as the Waarsi Huhne press conference this week showed, with its demand that the leadership contenders return their ministerial severance payments showed the softening up work is already starting.

From the beginning of September, a new CCHQ operation will issue quotes from ministers that are too political for civil servants to handle and pump out opposition research. The aim is to associate the new leader with Labour’s failures and to force them to say what they would do differently.

The new Labour leader’s first few months in the job will be crucial. Labour has ticked up in the polls since the election. If a new leader can get through to the New Year without incurring much damage then the opposition will be in a strong position. But if the coalition can do to him what Labour did to Hague and Duncan-Smith then it will have the political breathing space that it needs.