Peter Hoskin

Darling throws one hell of a spanner into No.10’s election works

Darling throws one hell of a spanner into No.10's election works
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So what's Alistair Darling up to?  When I first heard his "forces of Hell" comment last night – his description of those briefing against him from inside No.10 – I half suspected it was all part of Downing Street's grand plan.  You know, trying to defuse the bullying story by being honest – up to a point – about Brown's premiership, and then claiming that everything's alright really.  A bit like Peter Mandelson saying he took his "medicine like a man" – only with greater poetic license.

Now, though, I'm convinced that this wasn't part of No.10's script.  The clue is in the hurried, and ridiculous, denials that have been issued since.  We've had both Brown and Balls claiming that nothing has been done to undermine Darling, and that there's no "poisonous atmosphere" inside No.10.  That, lest it need saying, is about as far from truth 'n' reconciliation as it's possible to get.  And it's helped turn all this into a split story.   

In its way, I think this could be more powerful than the bullying allegations, by themselves.  Yes, we knew that Darling and Brown have had their moments; we knew that there's a culture of fear on Downing St; and we knew about McBride, Whelan, and the rest.  But this crystallises all those themes in a three-word sizzler – "forces of Hell" – straight from the Chancellor's mouth.  And all with the election only weeks away.  

At the very least, it should give Cameron some ammunition for PMQs.

P.S. Here's video of the Darling interview last night: