In an interview with the BBC today, DC gave the first specifics on the Opposition's planned reductions in public spending since announcing that the Tories would not be keeping to Labour's spending plans. DC revealed that the Tories would increase government spending to £645bn next year, as opposed to the Government's planned increase to £650bn. This figure actually means very little. The Tories know that such a small reduction should see off any attacks made by Labour along the same old lines about 'Tory cuts', but is also very aware that there is very little chance of the PM calling an election before the summer of 2010. This means DC can keep certain backbenchers in check - these are the same MPs who were calling for drastic cuts in public spending long before the announched ditching of Labour's spending plans. If you watched today's interview clearly, you should have noticed a few well-placed winks and nudges to these potential rebels. Not least, an expression of regret that the decision to ditch the Government's spending plans had not been taken earlier; an implicit acknowledgement that they had been right all along. Notice also DC's response when asked if voters should now expect an incoming Tory administration to slash public spending and cut taxes - "That's not what [voters] should be thinking. They should be thinking this would be a responsible government that would make government live within its means, that would relieve some of the debt burden being piled up on our children" - that's a 'Yes' for anyone not versed in lingua politico.
In any case, the hints seem to have done the trick. One MP boasted today that it had been backbench pressure which had forced DC to make the radical move of abandoning Labour's spending plans, and that it was now clear that a future Tory Government would be making cuts much bigger than the ones announced today.