Darling 'faced forces of hell' from No 10

Chancellor reveals how Brown's aides briefed against him over recession

Alistair Darling has described how the "forces of hell were unleashed" against him by Gordon Brown's aides after he predicted that the recession would be the most severe in 60 years.

In a frank interview, the Chancellor said that Mr Brown's close allies began to brief against him after he made the ominous prediction in the summer of 2008. His admission follows claims made in a book by the journalist, Andrew Rawnsley, that spinners close to the Prime Minister attempted to undermine Mr Darling following his comments, which proved to be accurate.

It is the first time that Mr Darling has spoken about the ordeal, which saw his comments splashed across the front of newspapers and was the Government's most dire warning to date about the extent of the financial crisis.

At the time, aides from No 10 were critical of him and warned the prediction could damage the economy further.

"Nobody likes the sort of briefing that goes on," Mr Darling told Sky News. "The forces of hell were unleashed." He did not unmask the aides involved, but when he was presented with the names of disgraced spinner, Damian McBride, and another former adviser, Charlie Whelan, he replied: "Of course, there were people saying things." In a clear swipe at Mr McBride, who left his post at No.10 after he was exposed as having composed a series of invented smears about Tory MPs, he added: "Frankly, my best answer for them is, I'm still here, one of them is not."

However, while the Chancellor admitted to having "some bad days" with Mr Brown, he said that he had never been bullied. "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 from time to time."

Mr Darling said that he spent a miserable couple of days after making his prediction about the severity of the downturn during an interview in Scotland.

"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," he said. "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."

Speculation was rife last summer that Mr Brown was desperate to replace Mr Darling with the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls. However, it is thought that Mr Darling said he would resign rather than be moved to another department.