Former UK chancellor Alistair Darling dies

Veteran Labour politician, who served in cabinets for 13 years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, dies aged 70

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Former chancellor Alistair Darling, who oversaw Britain’s economy during the 2008 global financial crisis and executed an unprecedented banking bailout, has died aged 70.

The long-serving Edinburgh MP died after spending time in hospital being treated for cancer, a representative on behalf of his family said.

After Labour's 1997 landslide election win, he served in the cabinet for 13 years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

He was a Labour MP from 1987 to 2015 and chancellor during the financial crisis of 2008. He retired from the House of Lords in 2020, five years after being appointed a life peer.

On Thursday, Mr Blair paid tribute to his friend. “Alistair Darling was a rarity in politics. I never met anyone who didn't like him.

“He was highly capable, though modest, understated but never to be underestimated, always kind and dignified even under the intense pressure politics can generate.

“He was the safest of safe hands. I knew he could be given any position in the Cabinet and be depended upon. I liked him and respected him immensely as a colleague and as a friend.”

He added: “I remember him with huge affection. He has been taken from us far too soon.”

The current Chancellor, Conservative Jeremy Hunt, said he would be “remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil”.

When the US subprime mortgage crisis spread to the UK, causing a liquidity crisis in the banking industry and triggering a run on the British bank Northern Rock, Mr Darling allowed the Bank of England to bail it out.

He then led the rescue and nationalisation of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which, he later said, was a few hours from running out of money.

"I was asked to come out and take a call from the then chairman of RBS [Tom McKillop] who said the bank was haemorrhaging money," Mr Darling said on the 10-year anniversary of the crash.

"Remember, this was not only the biggest in the world, it was about the same size as the entire UK economy. I said to him, 'How long can you last?' And what he said to me shook me to the core. He said, 'Well we're going to run out of money in the early afternoon'."

Gordon Brown paid tribute, saying: "Alistair will be remembered as a statesman of unimpeachable integrity whose life was defined by a strong sense of social justice and who gained a global reputation for the assured competence and the exercise of considered judgment he brought to the handling of economic affairs."

Mr Darling was born in London to a long line of Scots who made sure he went to school in Scotland. He then attended the University of Aberdeen, where he became president of the Student's Representative Council.

After graduating, he worked as a solicitor, but soon moved into politics, first as a local councillor in Lothian.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Darling “lived a life devoted to public service” and he would be remembered for guiding Britain through the global financial crisis with “calm expertise and honesty”.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Alistair Darling. My heart goes out to his family, particularly Maggie, Calum and Anna, whom he loved so dearly,' Mr Starmer said.

“Alistair lived a life devoted to public service. He will be remembered as the Chancellor whose calm expertise and honesty helped to guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis.”

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf posted on X, formerly Twitter: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Alistair's passing. He dedicated his life to public service and was a giant of Scottish politics.

“My thoughts with his wife Margaret, children, family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.”

A family statement announced Mr Darling's death.

It read: “Mr Darling, the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team.”

Updated: November 30, 2023, 3:26 PM