David Cameron taunts PM over 'war' with Darling

Conservatives today claimed that Gordon Brown was "at war" with his Chancellor after Alistair Darling complained that "the forces of hell" were unleashed against him by Downing Street aides.

Mr Brown strongly denied instructing his advisers to brief against Mr Darling in 2008, after the Chancellor predicted the recession would be the worst for 60 years.



But Conservative leader David Cameron taunted him over the allegation at Prime Minister's Questions, telling MPs that Mr Brown's then close adviser Damian McBride had in fact been "spreading poison" about the Chancellor to journalists.



Challenging the PM to repeat on the floor of the Commons the defence he gave on the GMTV sofa this morning, Mr Cameron said: "Right now, six weeks before an election with a record budget deficit at the end of a long recession, I want to ask why the Prime Minister and Chancellor are at war with each other."



Mr Darling appeared to be pointing the finger at Mr McBride when he told Sky News last night about newspaper reports in 2008 suggesting he was about to be removed from the Treasury: "I'd done this interview and the forces of hell were unleashed."



Asked whether Number 10 was responsible, he added: "Not just them, the Tories as well."





But Mr Brown today told GMTV: "I would never instruct anybody to do anything other than support my Chancellor."



The PM added: "Alistair has been a friend of mine for 20 years, we have worked together, our families know each other. We have worked together all this time and we have huge mutual respect for each other."



And Mr McBride - who quit Number 10 last year over his involvement in an email exchange discussing possible smears against leading Tories - denied that the Prime Minister had ordered him to undermine the Chancellor.



"The idea of Gordon instructing us to brief against Alistair Darling is totally wrong. The idea of me briefing against Alistair Darling is totally wrong," Mr McBride told the BBC.



"The Sunday papers were ringing up and asking us if we were angry with the Chancellor and the answer was no."











Mr Brown and Mr Darling put on a display of unity at Prime Minister's Questions today, arriving together and sitting alongside one another on the front bench.

Hailing Mr Darling as "right on every issue", the Prime Minister told Mr Cameron: "I would rather be defending my Chancellor than be in your position of having to defend your shadow chancellor."



The two men sat so near to one another and whispered so intently as Mr Cameron spoke that the Tory leader joked: "Any closer and they will start kissing!"



Speaker John Bercow threatened to suspend the sitting after rowdy backbenchers made it almost impossible to hear the furious exchanges.



Referring to the weekend's row over claims that Downing Street staff rang an anti-bullying helpline, the Speaker said if MPs did not stop shouting, "I might have to ring some sort of helpline myself".



The National Bullying Helpline announced today that it was suspending its phone operation and chief executive Christine Pratt was "prepared to resign if necessary" after the storm over her allegations.



The charity said it was "considering its future" after four patrons - including Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe - quit in protest at what they saw as a breach of Mrs Pratt's duty of confidentiality.



Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell told MPs that he had never given the Prime Minister a warning about his treatment of staff, as claimed in a book by political commentator Andrew Rawnsley.



"I never talked to the Prime Minister about his behaviour in relation to bullying No 10 staff, but of course I talk to the Prime Minister about how to get the best out of his civil servants," Sir Gus told the House of Commons Justice Committee.



"I haven't called for investigations, I haven't given verbal warnings."



The most senior civil servant in 10 Downing Street, permanent secretary Jeremy Heywood, confirmed that he spoke to Mr Rawnsley ahead of the publication of his book, but insisted he did not discuss the Prime Minister's character with him.



Speaking on Mr Heywood's behalf, Mr Brown's spokesman said: "He did not speak to Mr Rawnsley about the Prime Minister's working style or behaviour.



"He talked about the excellent role the Prime Minister played in helping the UK through the international crisis in 2008."



Speaking to GMTV, Mr Brown denied being a bully but admitted his actions could be viewed as those of a "hard taskmaster".



"I get angry sometimes - doesn't everybody?" said the Prime Minister. "I get impatient, I am driven to do the things. When I came into the job, I said look, I will try my utmost and I challenge people, I ask them to do the best they can.



"Actually, we work in an open plan office, we are a sort of family in Downing Street and like every family there are issues that come from time to time, but we have got a great working environment and we get things done."



He added: "In my job you have got to get things done, you have got to push people, you have got to challenge people. You don't solve a world recession by being a shrinking violet."



Mr Darling admitted last night that he and the Prime Minister had "bad days", but insisted they were outnumbered by good days.



"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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?