ESP has seen secret Labour's plans for a New Year campaign offensive against Boris Johnson, aiming to paint the Mayor as a "true blue rather than pastel" Tory.
It will say he is "more Tory" than David Cameron's coalition government, calling him “a Conservative mayor who meets bankers more than police; describes his £250,000-a-year second salary as ‘chicken feed’ but does not hesitate to raise fares”.
I was an unwitting inspiration for this attack, having reported last week that David Cameron told a private meeting of Conservative MPs that "keeping Boris in London was absolute priority” for the Conservatives in 2012 and “essential”.
Earlier this year, Ben Brogan reported a fascinating private Cameron quote, in which he told Boris: “Just in case it needs saying, you know that not only do I want you to win next year because we are friends, but I recognise that there is no way you losing would be seen as anything but a disaster for me.”
Labour's analysis is that Boris and Dave have stage fights in public but are best buddies in private. Boris's re-election on May 3 would be a triumph for the Tories.
Where Labour is going further is to deduce that a significant number of voters will desert Boris and switch to Ken once the above is pointed out.
The leaked document states: “We have not always been alert to these possibilities in the past and we must use the New Year focus on London elections to drive home the importance of Cameron’s comments and emphasise other areas where Johnson is beginning to emerge in true blue rather than pastel colours.
“Our campaign team need to use every opportunity to point out how being tied to the Tories is highly toxic for Boris Johnson with many voters – and it is Cameron himself who is binding Johnson to his mast.”
Marked “Confidential”, the briefing paper has been circulated to Labour leader Ed Miliband, general secretary Iain McNicol and London Labour organisers. Written by Simon Fletcher, Mr Livingstone’s chief of staff and campaign manager, it argues that the Prime Minister’s comments undermined a “conscious political strategy” by Mr Johnson to look different to the Conservative-led Government and its leader who was in the Bullingdon Club with him.
January’s six per cent fare rises will be the first big Labour campaign of the New Year. Later "scripts" will accuse Mr Johnson of backing “tax cuts for the rich” and chumming up with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
“Cameron’s comments must now be at the top of our charge sheet of how Boris Johnson is a Tory carrying out Conservative policies,” wrote Mr Fletcher.
Will this work? Our polling for the Evening Standard confirms that fare rises are a dangerous issue for the Mayor. And there are probably some voters out there who have missed the blindlingly obvious fact that Boris Johnson is a card-carrying Tory right winger.
But will an association with "Dave" make them jump ship to Ken? And might Ken's public appearances with Ed (at Feltham & Heston for example) send a few the other way?
I don't know. But it will fascinating to find out after May 3rd.
follow me on Twitter @JoeMurphyLondon