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'Forces of hell' unleashed on Darling

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 February 2010

Chancellor Alistair Darling has accused Gordon Brown's close advisers of unleashing "the forces of hell" against him when he predicted the worst recession for 60 years.

Chancellor Alistair Darling says

Mr Darling admitted the PM's supporters had tried to undermine his authority in the past, raising fresh questions about the culture at Number 10 under Gordon Brown.

In outspoken comments during an interview with Sky News, he pointed the finger at Damian McBride, Mr Brown's former spin doctor who resigned last year over allegations about a planned smear campaign.

The chancellor was referring to anonymous criticism of him after he gave a newspaper interview in 2008 predicting the recession would be the worst for 60 years.

He said: "I'd done this interview and the forces of hell were unleashed."

Asked whether Gordon Brown's close advisers were responsible, he added: "Not just them, the Tories as well."

His comments follow the row over alleged bullying at Number 10 after political journalist Andrew Rawnsley claimed top civil servant Sir Gus O'Donnell warned the prime minister about his treatment of staff.

Rawnsley's book claims the briefing against the chancellor was conducted by Mr McBride and Charlie Whelan, another staunch ally of Mr Brown.

Mr Darling added later in the interview: "I do not know why the briefers, if you like, did what they did, one day maybe they'll explain.

"What I do know is that, yes, unfortunately - and it's not a great source of pleasure - what I said did turn out to be true as we well know."

On his personal relationship with the PM, Mr Darling admitted they had "bad days" but insisted they were outnumbered by good days.

He suggested any tensions between the pair were typical of relations between prime ministers and chancellors and rejected any suggestion that he had been bullied by Mr Brown.

"Of course Gordon and I have some very robust exchanges," he said.

"I can't imagine any healthy relationship between a prime minister and a chancellor where they don't have differences of opinion from time to time."

Darling's comments, in addition to the Downing Street bullying claims, make for a lively prime minister's questions today at noon. 

A Conservative Party spokesman has said: "The idea that Gordon Brown runs a happy and united team has been blown apart."

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