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Ten Tory tactics to defeat Ed Miliband

Tory strategists have identified ten reasons why over the term of the next parliament Labour’s new l

The Conservative leadership did believe David Miliband represented the greater threat - and so there were cheers inside Downing Street when Ed's victory was announced on 25 September. But wiser Conservatives realise they cannot afford such complacency. With 258 MPs, Labour's new leader is much closer to a Commons majority than William Hague, Michael Howard or David Cameron were when they led in opposition. There is the possibility, too, of a Lib-Lab pact, which might explain why Ed Miliband chose not to make a single attack on Nick Clegg in his leader's speech.

If the coalition collapses before the fruits of deficit reduction are ready to pick, Cameron will be in trouble. That is why the fortitude of the Liberal Democrats at their Liverpool gathering gave the Prime Minister at least as much satisfaction as Labour's choice of the more left-leaning candidate. Although these are still early days, Clegg's party appears to have decided that it is in its long-term interests, as the balance-of-power party, to prove that hung parliaments work.

Meanwhile, Tory strategists have identified ten broad reasons why, if they have the full length of the parliament, they are hopeful of eroding Miliband's likely midterm advantage:

1 Deficit denial. Cameron's belief is that the economic cycle is on his side. He hopes that UK plc will be growing by 2014-2015 and voters will reward him for dispensing the restorative medicine. There will be a more immediate upside for Labour if it fights every big cut but, over time, there will be severe brand damage. Labour won't be trusted to do the right thing and that will blight Miliband's "new generation".

2 Union influence. The result of the leadership contest could not have been better for Conservatives if they had stage-managed it themselves: a knife-edge victory where the votes of public-sector unions made the difference. The power of Unite, Unison and other post-industrial unions to bring essential public services to a halt is likely to dominate the news over the next two years. Miliband has to decide if he will defend public-sector workers - who now get better pay and conditions than most private-sector counterparts - or whether he'll take them on.

3 Yesterday's man. David Cameron began his leadership by telling Tony Blair that "you were the future once". Just about the worst election slogan in modern times was Bob Dole's 1996 promise to be a bridge to America's past. The Conservatives want to paint Ed Miliband as yesterday's man, defending failed settlements in education, welfare and the size of the unresponsive state bureaucracy.

4 A leftwards drift. Blair and Gordon Brown suppressed the desire of many Labour activists for greater union rights and taxes on the rich. During the leadership race, the old instincts ­returned: even David Miliband promised to review the tax status of private schools. This is the Old Labour politics of envy, not the New Labour politics of aspiration. Will Ed Miliband be strong enough to keep on the centre ground when the unions are paying nearly all of his indebted party's bills?

5 No appetite for modernisation. Over half of grass-roots Labour members think they can stay in their comfort zone, waiting for the coalition to falter, avoiding significant changes. That's the wrong strategy: two-thirds of swing voters are waiting to see Labour change in "fundamental" ways before they'll support it again.

6 Labour disunited. Alastair Campbell joked that Miliband might have won his slim victory because of Peter Mandelson's eve-of-poll intervention. Tory HQ will hope these attacks on the New Labour establishment continue, and they will be encouraged by the fault line that emerged in Manchester between Mili D and Mili E. Newspapers love split stories and eagerly seized on the elder brother's unhappiness at the Iraq references in Ed Miliband's first big speech.

7 Egalitarianism. Labour's electoral college may have loved Miliband's commitment to greater equality, but the last thing "squeezed Middle England" will want after years of austerity is more self-sacrificing taxes. The threat of redistribution will undermine Miliband's potentially popular promise to defend universal benefits.

8 Libertarian on crime. Kenneth Clarke's unpicking of Michael Howard's old "Prison works" policy is unpopular with a clear majority of voters, so Miliband's decision to back Clarke ends the possibility of Labour outflanking the Tories on this potent issue. He should have listened to Alan Johnson in Manchester, who said that the fundamental civil liberty is to be safe on the streets.

9 Odd Ed. The new Labour leader isn't so much Red Ed as Odd Ed. Only 36 per cent think he is prime ministerial, according to a poll conducted for the Conservative Party. Is it the staring eyes? That he hasn't done anything outside politics? His claim that he was "too busy" to register as his child's father is certainly odd.

10 The rejected Brown legacy. Miliband's emphasis on representing the "new generation of change" shows that he understands the need to free himself from the Brown and Blair years. His Manchester speech may not have contained a Clause Four moment, but disowning the Iraq war was an attempt to wriggle free from the past. What voters really want, however, is some humility and an apology for one of the biggest debt burdens in the developed world.

Tim Montgomerie is the editor of the political website ConservativeHome

Tim Montgomerie is the co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice, ConservativeHome, and a former adviser to Boris Johnson.

This article first appeared in the 04 October 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Licence to cut