David Cameron has launched a full frontal attack on Gordon Brown's credibility, accusing him of being "tragic" and allowing himself to be "pushed around".
On the eve of his first party conference in charge, the Conservative leader opened up a new front against the man who is most likely to succeed Tony Blair. He dismissed as laughable Mr Brown's attempts to counter the accusations that he was too Scottish, too old, and too much of a schemer to become prime minister.
Mr Cameron also said, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, that it was "tragic" that the Chancellor was prepared to sacrifice civil liberties "to prove that he's not left-wing".
"He's being pushed around by everyone. He's told he needs to look more modern so he tells us he likes the Arctic Monkeys. Incredible. He's told he looks too Scottish, so he tells us he likes Gazza's goal against Scotland. Utterly incredible. He's told 'you're plotting too much and you look like a schemer', so he says Tony's 'always going to be my friend'. Completely incredible."
The Tory broadside drew a withering response from the Chancellor's key ally, Ed Balls, who described Cameron as "vacuous and insubstantial".
The Tory leader will tomorrow take on the right wing of his party, declaring that the "centre ground" is where the next election will be fought.
Opening his party's annual conference in Bournemouth, he will distance himself from Margaret Thatcher, saying that despite her "magnificent achievements", today "people want different things".
He will indicate that the party has moved on from the time she made her remark that "there is no such thing as society", by declaring that society has a crucial role to play in developing "social responsibility".
His speech is likely to irritate the right wing of the party, already angry with him over his failure to offer tax cuts. He is also expected to come under attack for failing to promote more female candidates. Yesterday, Labour seized on a survey conducted by Shireen Ritchie, chairman of the candidates' committee, which found that on the Tories' full candidates list of parliamentary hopefuls, 27 per cent are women.Reuse content