Alistair Darling

The Right Honourable
The Lord Darling of Roulanish
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 May 2010  8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman
Preceded by George Osborne
Succeeded by Alan Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
28 June 2007  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Gordon Brown
Succeeded by George Osborne
President of the Board of Trade
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
5 May 2006  27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Alan Johnson
Succeeded by John Hutton (Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform)
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
13 June 2003  5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Helen Liddell
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
29 May 2002  5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Stephen Byers (Transport, Local Government and the Regions)
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Social Security (1998–2001)
In office
27 July 1998  29 May 2002
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Succeeded by Andrew Smith
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
3 May 1997  27 July 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by William Waldegrave
Succeeded by Stephen Byers
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
25 July 1996  3 May 1997
Leader Tony Blair
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Succeeded by David Heathcoat-Amory
Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh South West
Edinburgh Central (1987–2005)
In office
11 June 1987  30 March 2015
Preceded by Alex Fletcher
Succeeded by Joanna Cherry
Personal details
Born (1953-11-28) 28 November 1953
Hendon, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Margaret Vaughan
Children 2
Alma mater University of Aberdeen

Alistair Maclean Darling, Baron Darling of Roulanish, PC (born 28 November 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1987 to 2015, most recently for Edinburgh South West. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 2007 to 2010, and was one of only three people to have served in the Cabinet continuously from Labour's victory in 1997 until its defeat in 2010, the others being Gordon Brown and Jack Straw.

Darling was first appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997, before being promoted to become Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in 1998. After spending four years at that department, he spent a further four years as Secretary of State for Transport, while also becoming Secretary of State for Scotland in 2003. Blair moved Darling for a final time in 2006, making him President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, before new Prime Minister Gordon Brown promoted Darling to replace himself as the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2007, a position he remained in until 2010.

From 2012 to 2014, Darling was the Chairman of the Better Together Campaign, a cross-party group that successfully campaigned for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom in the 2014 independence referendum.[1] On 3 November 2014, Darling announced that he was standing down at the 2015 election.[2] He was nominated for a life peerage in the 2015 Dissolution Honours and was created Baron Darling of Roulanish, of Great Bernera in the County of Ross and Cromarty, on 1 December 2015.[3]

Early life

Alistair Darling was born in London[4] the son of a civil engineer, Thomas, and his wife, Anna MacLean. He is the great-nephew of Sir William Darling, a Conservative-Unionist Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South (1945–1957). He was educated in Kirkcaldy, and the independent Loretto School,[5] in Musselburgh, then attended the University of Aberdeen where he was awarded a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). He became the President of Aberdeen University Students' Representative Council.

He joined the Labour Party at the age of 23 in 1977. He became a solicitor in 1978, then changed course for the Scots bar and was admitted as an advocate in 1984. He was elected as a councillor to the Lothian Regional Council in 1982 where he supported large rates rises in defiance of Margaret Thatcher's rate-capping laws and even threatened not to set a rate at all.[6] He served on the council until he was elected to Parliament. He was also a board member for the Lothian and Borders Police and became a governor of Napier College in 1985 for two years.

Member of Parliament

He entered Parliament at the 1987 General Election in Edinburgh Central defeating the sitting Conservative MP Sir Alexander Fletcher by 2,262 votes, and remained an MP until 2015.

After the creation of the Scottish Parliament the number of Scottish seats at Westminster was reduced, and his Edinburgh Central seat was abolished. After the 2005 election he represented Edinburgh South West. The Labour Party was so concerned that Darling might be defeated, several senior party figures, including Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Chancellor Gordon Brown, made encouragement trips to the constituency during the election campaign. Despite being a senior Cabinet minister himself, Darling was hardly seen outside the area, as he was making the maximum effort to win his seat. In the event, he won it with a majority of 7,242 over the second-placed Conservative candidate, a 16.49% margin on a 65.4% turnout.

Shadow Cabinet

As a backbencher he sponsored the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1988.[7] He soon became an Opposition Home Affairs spokesman in 1988 on the frontbench of Neil Kinnock.

After the 1992 General Election he became a spokesman on Treasury Affairs until being promoted to Tony Blair's Shadow Cabinet as the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1996.

In government

Following the 1997 General Election he entered Cabinet as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In 1998 he was made the Secretary of State for Social Security replacing Harriet Harman who had been dismissed. After the 2001 General Election, the Department of Social Security was abolished and replaced with the new Department for Work and Pensions, which also took employment away from the education portfolio, Darling fronted the new department until 2002 when he was moved to the Department for Transport after his predecessor Stephen Byers resigned.

Secretary of State for transport

Darling was given a brief to "take the department out of the headlines". He oversaw the creation of Network Rail, the successor to Railtrack, which had collapsed in controversial circumstances for which his predecessor was largely blamed. He also procured the passage of the legislation – the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 – which abolished the Rail Regulator and replaced it with the Office of Rail Regulation. He was responsible for the Railways Act 2005 which abolished the Strategic Rail Authority, a creation of the Labour government under the Transport Act 2000. Darling was also responsible for the cancellation of several major Light Rail schemes, including a major extension to Manchester Metrolink[8] (later reversed) and the proposed Leeds Supertram,[9] citing rising costs of £620m and £486m respectively. Darling gave the government's support to the Crossrail scheme for an East-West rail line under London,[10] whose £10bn projected cost later rose to £15bn.

Although he was not at the Department for Transport at the time of the collapse of Railtrack, Darling vigorously defended what had been done in a speech to the House of Commons on 24 October 2005. This included the making of threats to the independent Rail Regulator that if he intervened to defend the company against the government's attempts to force it into railway administration – a special status for insolvent railway companies – the government would introduce emergency legislation to take the regulator under direct political control. This stance by Darling surprised many observers because during his tenure at the Department for Transport he had made several statements to Parliament and the financial markets assuring them that the government regarded independence in economic regulation of the railways as essential.

Secretary of State for Scotland

In 2003, when the Scotland Office was folded into the Department for Constitutional Affairs, he was made Scottish Secretary in combination with his transport portfolio.

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

In the Cabinet reshuffle of May 2006, he was moved to the position of Secretary of State for Trade and Industry; Douglas Alexander replaced him as both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. On 10 November 2006 in a mini-reshuffle, Malcolm Wicks, the Minister for Energy at the Department of Trade and Industry and therefore one of Darling's junior ministers, was appointed Minister for Science. Darling took over day-to-day control of the Energy portfolio.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Alistair Darling with Christine Lagarde and Timothy Geithner in Istanbul.

In June 2007, the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Darling Chancellor of the Exchequer, a promotion widely anticipated in the media. Journalists observed that three of Darling's four junior ministers at the Treasury (Angela Eagle, Jane Kennedy and Kitty Ussher) were female and dubbed his team, "Darling's Darlings".[11]

In September 2007, for the first time since 1860, there was a run on a British bank, Northern Rock. Although the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority have jurisdiction in such cases, ultimate authority for deciding on financial support for a bank in exceptional circumstances rests with the Chancellor. The 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis had caused a liquidity crisis in the UK banking industry, and Northern Rock was unable to borrow as required by its business model. Darling authorised the Bank of England to lend Northern Rock funds to cover its liabilities and provided an unqualified taxpayers' guarantee of the deposits of savers in Northern Rock in an attempt to stop the run. Northern Rock borrowed up to £20 billion from the Bank of England,[12] and Darling was criticised for becoming sucked into a position where so much public money was tied up in a private company.[13]

In March 2008, Darling was criticised in some circles for the Budget by a media campaign spread by a social networking site. James Hughes, a landlord in Edinburgh symbolically barred Darling from his pub, and a passing reporter from the Edinburgh Evening News ran the story. A Facebook group was created, leading dozens of pubs across Britain to follow Hughes, barring Darling from their pubs. The story was eventually picked up by most national press and broadcast media in Britain, and leader of the opposition cited the movement at Prime Minister's Questions on 26 March.[14]

Child benefit data scandal

Darling was Chancellor when the confidential personal details of over 25 million British citizens went missing while being sent from his department to the National Audit Office. A former Scotland Yard detective stated that with the current rate of £2.50 per person's details this data could have been sold for £60 million.[15] The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, put the value at £1.5bn, or £60 per identity.[16]

Storm warning

In an interview in The Guardian[17] published 30 August 2008, Alistair Darling warned, "The economic times we are facing... are arguably the worst they've been in 60 years. And I think it's going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought." His blunt warning led to confusion within the Labour Party. However, Darling insisted that it was his duty to be "straight" with people.[18]

Budget 2008

On 12 March 2008, Darling gave his first budget in the House of Commons.

10% income tax band

Darling's predecessor, Gordon Brown, just before becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, axed the 10% starting rate on income tax and reduced the basic rate income tax band from 22% to 20% in his final budget on 21 March 2007 which was to come into effect in the tax year starting 6 April 2008. This was not amended in Darling's 2008 budget. Although the majority of tax payers would become marginally better off as a result of these changes, around 5.1 million low earners (including those earning less than £18,000) would have financially suffered. On 18 October 2007, the Treasury released statistics which established that childless persons on low incomes could lose up to £200 a year as a result of the changes, while parents and those earning more than £20,000 would gain money.

Increasing political backlash to the additional tax burden put immense pressure onto the government including the new chancellor Darling with Gordon Brown facing criticism from his own Parliamentary Labour party. In May 2008 Darling announced he would help low-paid workers hit by the scrapping of the 10p rate, by raising this year's personal tax allowance by £600 funded by borrowing £2.7 billion.[19]

Stimulus spending

To boost falling demand, the government announced an additional £20bn spending package. Subsequently, Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, warned the government against further stimulus spending, due to insecure public finances.[20]

Budget 2009

On 22 April 2009, Darling delivered his second budget speech in the House of Commons. To stimulate the motor industry, a £2,000 allowance was announced for a car more than 10 years old, if it was traded in for a new car. A 50% tax band was announced for earners of over £150,000 to start the following tax year.[21]

Budget 2010

Gordon Brown confirmed on 10 March 2010 that Alistair Darling would deliver his Third budget before the general election,[22] which was delivered on 24 March 2010.[23]

Later activities

Following the defeat of the Labour Party in the 2010 general election, Darling announced that he intended to leave front bench politics. On 17 May 2010 it was reported that he stated: "It has been an honour and a tremendous privilege but I believe it is time for me to return to the backbenches from where I shall look after, with great pride, the constituents of Edinburgh South West."[24]

Darling suggested on 7 September 2010 on the Daily Politics show, that he was only intending to take a "year out" and may possibly reconsider his future.[25]

Expenses claims

In May 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that Darling changed the designation of his second home four times in four years, allowing him to claim for the costs of his family home in Edinburgh, and to buy and furnish a flat in London including the cost of stamp duty and other legal fees. Darling said that "the claims were made within House of Commons rules".[26][27]

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, criticised him by saying: "given that very unique responsibility that [Darling] has [as Chancellor], it's simply impossible for him to continue in that role when such very major question marks are being raised about his financial affairs". A former chairman and treasurer of the Scottish Labour Party described Darling's position as "untenable" and said that "[Darling] certainly shouldn't be in the Cabinet".[28]

On 1 June 2009, Darling apologised "unreservedly" about a mistaken claim for £700, which he had agreed to repay. He was supported by the Prime Minister, who referred to the incident as an inadvertent mistake.[29]

In 2010 he resigned from the Faculty of Advocates as they were investigating his financial affairs.[30]

Better Together campaign

Darling was the chairman and one of the directors of the Better Together campaign, which campaigned for a 'No' vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. He was involved in the campaign's launch in June 2012, delivered a speech on the subject in the annual John P Mackintosh lecture in November 2012, and addressed a fringe meeting at the Scottish Conservative Conference in June 2013.[31] In August 2014 Darling took part in Salmond & Darling: The Debate and Scotland Decides: Salmond versus Darling, televised debates with First Minister Alex Salmond on the pros and cons of Scottish Independence.[32]

Darling was criticised by some Scottish Labour MPs and supporters who believed that working with Conservatives on the Better Together campaign might damage Labour's prospects in Scotland.[33] In the general election a year after the referendum, Labour lost all but one of their seats in Scotland to the SNP, with swings of over 30% in several seats, including a UK record swing of 39.3% against Labour in Glasgow North East.[34]

Personal life

Darling had a brief previous marriage when young,[35] but has been married to former journalist Margaret McQueen Vaughan since 1986; the couple have a son (Calum, born 1988) and daughter (Anna, born 1990). Margaret Vaughan worked for Radio Forth, the Daily Record and Glasgow Herald until Labour's election victory in 1997. Darling's media adviser, the former Herald political journalist, Catherine MacLeod, is a close friend of Vaughan and Darling, as well as being a long-standing Labour Party supporter. A sister Jane works as a cook and lives in Edinburgh. Darling has admitted to smoking cannabis in his youth.[36]

He enjoys listening to Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Leonard Cohen and recently to the American rock band The Killers.[37]


  1. "Scottish independence: Darling launches Better Together campaign". BBC News. 24 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  2. "Alistair Darling to stand down as MP". BBC News. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 61427. p. 23850. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  4. "Darling, Alistair". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 28 December 2004.
  5. "Some former pupils show the way". The Herald. Glasgow. 6 October 1998. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  6. p5, Private Eye no. 1218, 5–18 September 2008
  7. "Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1988 (c. 42)".
  8. "Government scraps trams extension". BBC News. 20 July 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  9. "Tram refusal a slap in the face". BBC News. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  10. "Government backs 10bn Crossrail". BBC News. 20 July 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  11. "Simon Hoggart's sketch: Darling, you're so dreary". The Guardian. London. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  12. "US private equity firm eyes Rock". BBC News. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  13. "Northern Rock & Virgin: who wins?". BBC News. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  14. Wooding, David (26 March 2008). "Pub landlords set about barring Chancellor from every boozer in Britain". The Sun. London. See also: Hope, Christopher (26 March 2008). "Ban Alistair Darling from every British pub". The Telegraph. London. andBalakrishnan, Angela (26 March 2008). "You're barred, pub campaigners tell chancellor". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010. and"Campaign launched to ban the Chancellor from every pub in the countryLatest Scottish news and headlines from Scotland".
  15. "Fraud Risk To Millions After 'Catastrophic' Records Blunder".
  16. "Discs 'worth £1.5bn' to criminals". BBC. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  17. Aitkenhead, Decca (29 August 2008). "Storm warning". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  18. Oakeshott, Isabel; Smith, David (31 August 2008). "Labour in turmoil over Alistair Darling gaffe". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  19. Webster, Philip (14 May 2008). "Gordon Brown pays £2.7 billion to end 10p tax crisis". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  20. Britain cannot afford any further fiscal stimulus, King warns Kathryn Hopkins, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 March 2009 15.33 GMT.
  21. "At-a-glance: Budget 2009". BBC. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  22. "Gordon Brown warns economic storm not over". BBC News. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  23. "Chancellor Alistair Darling opens the Budget". British Broadcasting Company. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  24. "Darling leaves frontbench politics after more than 20 years", Times Online, 17 May 2010 Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. "Ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling: 'I am taking a year out'". BBC News. 7 September 2010.
  26. "MPs' expenses claims – key details". BBC News. 19 June 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  27. Watt, Holly (8 May 2009). "Daily Telegraph: Alistair Darling". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  28. Winnett, Robert; Watt, Holly (13 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: Alistair Darling billed us for two homes at the same time". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  29. "Darling 'very sorry' over claim". BBC. 1 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  30. "Alistair Darling resigns from law body as it investigates his conduct – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  31. Scottish Tory Party conference: Labour's Darling delivers pro-Union message, 8 June 2013
  32. "Scottish debate: Salmond and Darling in angry clash over independence". The Guardian. 5 August 2014.
  33. "Labour figures shun Better Together over Tory role – Top stories". The Scotsman. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  34. "Election 2015: SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scots landslide'". BBC News. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  35. Joe Murphy "Cabinet's own marriage failures force retreat on traditional wedlock", The Daily Telegraph, 14 January 2001
  36. Mason, Rowena (1 July 2012). "I smoked marijuana, admits Chuka Umunna". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  37. Rumbelow, Helen; Webster, Philip; Harding, James (22 September 2007). "Alistair Darling: The man who stepped into limelight on the darkest of all Mondays". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010.

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alistair Darling.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alex Fletcher
Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh Central

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh South West

Succeeded by
Joanna Cherry
Political offices
Preceded by
William Waldegrave
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Stephen Byers
Preceded by
Harriet Harman
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Succeeded by
Andrew Smith
Preceded by
Stephen Byers
as Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander
Preceded by
Helen Liddell
Secretary of State for Scotland
Preceded by
Alan Johnson
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
John Hutton
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
John Hutton
as Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Preceded by
Gordon Brown
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
George Osborne
Second Lord of the Treasury
Party political offices
New office Chair of the Better Together Campaign
Position abolished
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