These are dangerous times for the government. Alistair Darling, chancellor, is in serious political trouble and the sound of muttering about his performance can be heard swelling around Whitehall.
Gordon Brown’s spokesman on Tuesday repeated the view that it was "total garbage" that the prime minister had any doubts about the performance of his neighbour.
But there are some senior figures close to Mr Brown who are questioning how Mr Darling managed to spectacularly damage the government’s relations with business with last year’s pre-budget report.
When this sort of criticism seeps into the political gossip machine, it can be unsettling. When it relates to the way in which the Brown camp sees the Chancellor of the Exchequer it threatens to be highly damaging to the government. Ben Brogan in his Daily Mail blog points out what is at stake.
The fact is that Mr Darling’s pre-budget report – with its capital gains tax reforms and plans to hit non-doms with a £30,000 levy – was hastily drawn up with an autumn general election in mind.
It might have played well in a three week election campaign, but it has gone down disastrously with business and the City. This is the very constituency which Mr Brown – through ten years as chancellor – struggled so hard to win over.
But if the detail in the PBR was Mr Darling’s responsibility, the plan to tax rich foreigners and hit private equity bosses through CGT reform was Mr Brown’s. It was the PM who toyed with the early election; it was Mr Brown who told his chancellor to rush out these plans to counter Tory moves in the same area.
They are in this together. My guess is that Mr Brown will not move his chancellor in a summer reshuffle – a move which would smack of sheer panic – and that Mr Darling will continue to play a role as a human shield deflecting criticism from Number 10.
Ed Balls, children’s minister, is talked about as a chancellor-in-waiting. But does Mr Brown really want his closest ally to stand in the line of fire at such a dangerous political and economic moment.