Lord Darling of Roulanish obituary


Alistair Darling, the previous Labour chancellor of the exchequer, who has died of most cancers aged 70, was appointed to run the Treasury within the early summer time of 2007, simply weeks earlier than a devastating credit score disaster at Northern Rock led to the primary run on a British financial institution in 150 years, which might in flip function the harbinger of the following world monetary recession. It was Darling who introduced that the federal government and the Financial institution of England would assure the deposits at Northern Rock and who later ordered the £50bn rescue of the Royal Financial institution of Scotland inside hours of its collapse.

He would replicate afterwards that Britain had been perilously near a breakdown in regulation and order, which might have been precipitated by the failure of what was then, if briefly, the most important financial institution on this planet. He thus left the Treasury in 2010, after three tumultuous years, together with his beforehand established popularity for sustaining stability in occasions of bother significantly enhanced. His earlier shut friendship with the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, was ruptured, nevertheless, by the variations over how they dealt with the sequence of essential occasions of the interval.

Lord Darling of Roulanish, as he grew to become on becoming a member of the Home of Lords in 2015, exhibited quite a few traits that marked him out as a extremely uncommon politician. He was not personally formidable and by no means wished to steer his get together. He believed it was essentially essential to be straight with individuals and at all times to inform as a lot of the reality as was possible within the prevailing circumstances. And he took pleasure in being a pragmatist.

He was additionally humorous, fearless and self-effacing – in a restrained, dry and really Scottish method – and, in consequence, he was universally preferred and revered by fellow politicians in all events; itself an uncommon praise for anybody concerned within the politics of both Westminster or Scotland. He as soon as stated that he wished to be remembered as the federal government minister who started the eradication of childhood poverty, an goal he pursued in a number of of his many ministerial posts. He joked, nevertheless, on one other event, that his obituary was prone to be headed “a protected pair of arms”, because the phrase had been so typically connected to his political profession.

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Alistair Darling, chief of the marketing campaign to maintain Scotland a part of the UK, speaking to the prime minister Gordon Brown earlier than a Higher Collectively rally in Dundee, 2014. {Photograph}: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Darling was considered one of solely three ministers who had been within the cupboard all through the period of the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010; the others being Jack Straw and Gordon Brown, whom he succeeded as chancellor when the latter grew to become prime minister. His evident means had been recognised as quickly as he arrived within the Home of Commons in 1987 because the MP for Edinburgh Central, and he was promoted by Neil Kinnock to the frontbench inside a 12 months. After Tony Blair swept into workplace, Darling was initially appointed chief secretary to the Treasury, chosen by his fellow Scot Brown for that essential put up. He subsequently served as secretary of state for social safety (1998-2001); work and pensions, as social safety grew to become (2001-02); transport (2002-06); Scotland (2003-06); and commerce and business (2006-07).

His political hero was Labour’s postwar prime minister Clement Attlee, whose skilful ways he imitated to some extent: he appeared unassuming, however was nonetheless terribly assiduous and believed profoundly within the energy of politics to resolve a difficulty by way of financial motion. Not like Attlee, nevertheless, he was additionally a powerful public performer. He was of a political era that believed within the function of the state within the nation’s affairs, however he additional recognised the necessity for that function to evolve and for people to just accept a level of non-public duty of their relationship with public companies. It was this considering that led to the renaming of the previous Division of Social Safety to Work and Pensions beneath his stewardship, with the intention to replicate each the primacy of labor and the precept of pensioners having a share within the nation’s rising prosperity.

Such considerate revisionism gave Darling the intrinsic {qualifications} wanted for Blair’s New Labour imaginative and prescient, however he was at all times his personal man and by no means signed up as a political intimate on both aspect of the Blair-Brown energy play. He went in to politics to get issues accomplished, as a result of he believed in sturdy public companies, higher schooling and equality of alternative, and had no style for factional in-fighting.

He was born in London, the eldest of 4 youngsters of Thomas Darling, a civil engineer with a double first from Cambridge, and Anna (nee Maclean), whose household got here from Lewis within the Outer Hebrides – to which Darling paid tribute in his alternative of title as a life peer. His grandfathers had been each Liberals, and one great-uncle, Sir William Darling, had been a Conservative and Unionist MP (Edinburgh South 1945-57) and lord provost of Edinburgh. The household moved again to Scotland when Alistair was 12 and he was despatched to the nation’s oldest boarding college, Loretto, close to Edinburgh, after attending seven main colleges. He learn regulation at Aberdeen College, grew to become concerned in pupil politics and joined the Labour get together in 1977. He was a solicitor from 1978 till 1982 after which determined to maneuver to the Scottish bar, turning into an advocate in 1984.

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Alistair Darling, then transport secretary, with the prime minister Tony Blair on the Scottish Labour get together convention in Inverness, 2004. {Photograph}: Christopher Furlong/Getty Photographs

In 1982 he was elected as a Lothian regional councillor for the Haymarket and Tollcross space of Edinburgh. He served on the Lothian and Border police board (1982-86), was a governor of Napier Faculty, Edinburgh (1982-87) and chaired the regional transport committee (1986-87). He was chosen from a shortlist of two to contest the newly marginal seat of Edinburgh Central in 1987, and defeated the sitting Conservative minister, Alex Fletcher. He was elected 4 occasions for the constituency, which was abolished in 2005, then moved to turn out to be MP for Edinburgh South West, earlier than standing down in 2015 when he promised to “discover one other dragon to go and struggle”.

Darling was ambivalent about Scottish devolution in 1979 – though he voted in favour in that 12 months’s unsuccessful referendum, he retained doubts about its practicality till he grew to become extra actively concerned in politics. As soon as an MP, he labored behind the scenes on the agenda for quite a few constitutional and authorized reforms with particular implications for a future Scottish parliament. He joined the house affairs crew beneath Roy Hattersley in 1988, was a member of the Labour Overview Group to make the authorized system extra democratic, and was acknowledged as a main mover in fixing the system of proportional illustration (PR) that will later be used for elections to the Scottish parliament.

He was a member of the Plant fee on electoral programs (1990-93), which really helpful the introduction of PR for the Home of Commons – however which was shelved after the Blair landslide. After leaving authorities, in 2012 he grew to become chair of the all-party Higher Collectively marketing campaign towards independence for Scotland within the 2014 referendum.

In 1992, beneath the management of John Smith, he was switched to the financial portfolio now working intently for the primary time with Brown because the shadow chancellor. He was a part of Labour’s “prawn cocktail offensive”, lunching in Metropolis boardrooms in an try and reassure the monetary establishments in regards to the get together’s plans; he was a member of Labour’s financial fee and was concerned in drawing up insurance policies for stakeholding and reforming monetary rules. He grew to become shadow chief secretary to the Treasury in 1996.

Till he grew to become chancellor and located himself within the eye of an unprecedented financial storm, Darling had stored a low public profile. He didn’t give many interviews, selected to not socialise with colleagues in pursuit of non-public promotion, and gained himself a reputation for uninteresting decency. He was voted probably the most boring MP in 2003, which, it was claimed, he considered a private triumph. The fact was that his character merely didn’t lend itself to publicity, and his best remorse throughout his 30 years in frontline politics was essentially placing his work earlier than his household.

Darling gained some notoriety when he did come into each day public view, solely on account of his look and the startling distinction between his shock of prematurely white hair and black beetle brows. He would say later that he was shocked that the trauma of averting catastrophe on the peak of the financial disaster didn’t additionally trigger his eyebrows to show an identical white.

He admitted additionally to having been scarred by the response to an interview he gave to the Guardian in the summertime of 2008, paradoxically in an try and redress the dearth of public understanding of his character and persona. In the midst of the interview he accurately predicted that the approaching recession – which subsequent statistics confirmed had already begun – can be the worst for 60 years. The remark outraged Brown, who unleashed a counter-briefing towards his chancellor and subsequently tried unsuccessfully to sack him, failing solely as a result of to take action imperilled his personal survival as prime minister. Darling wrote of the “assault canine” of the “inept briefing machine at No 10” and of the “forces of hell” being let unfastened towards him. Unrepentant, he would remark later that he ought to have stated 100 years, slightly than 60. In his 2011 memoir Again from the Brink: 1000 Days at No 11, he wrote of his “typically troubled relationship” with Brown as neighbours in Downing Road. “Combating financial and monetary fires was the simple little bit of the job,” he noticed tartly.

Darling retired from politics in 2020, resigning from the Home of Lords after solely 5 years, decided to pursue extra of his personal pursuits and to make up time together with his household.

After an early first marriage, in 1986 he married Maggie McQueen Vaughan, a well-liked and unpretentious former Glasgow Herald journalist. He’s survived by her and their two youngsters, Calum and Anna.


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