Brown tries to limit damage from Darling comments

By staff

The prime minister and his chancellor are engaged in an unprecedented war of words in public after Alistair Darling said the “forces of hell” had been unleashed against him.

Referring to the briefings against him following his assessment that this would be the worst recession for 60 years, back in 2008, Mr Darling told Sky News Downing Street and the Tories were behind the rumours.

Speaking to GMTV today, Gordon Brown desperately tried to limit the damage from Mr Darling’s unprecedented comments.

“I was never part of anything to do with this. Look, this was the most amazing time… and lots of things were happening in this time,” he said.

“But I would never instruct anybody to do anything other than support my chancellor, and I think Alistair will confirm that.”

He insisted he had been friends with the chancellor for 20 years and that the two shared great “mutual respect”.

Mr Darling’s shocking interview yesterday addressed the briefings given to the media directly after the chancellor claimed he would be replaced by children’s secretary Ed Balls.

Asked if the briefings emerged from Downing Street, Mr Darling replied: “The Tories as well. It was a weekend you could have done without.

“I do not know why the briefers did what they did. One day maybe they will explain.

“What I do know is, unfortunately and it’s not a great source of pleasure, but what I said did turn out to be true.”

The chancellor then appeared to refer to Damian McBride, who lost his job last year after constructing slurs against the opposition for a blog.

“Frankly, my best answer for them is, I’m still here, one of them is not,” Mr Darling said.

But he denied ever having been bullied by Mr Brown.

“Of course, Gordon and I have some very robust exchanges,” he added.

“I can’t imagine any healthy relationship between a prime minister and a chancellor where they don’t have differences from time to time.”

The row comes on the same day that the National Bullying Helpline, which said several members of stafff in Number Ten had complained about their treatment, was suspended.

It’s chief, Christine Platt said she was “prepared to resign if necessary”.

The comments from Mr Darling will do little to heal rumours of a deep mistrust between the two men, originating in the events Mr Darling discussed and Mr Brown’s ultimately failed attempts to replace him with Mr Balls last year.