Alistair Maclean Darling, Baron Darling of Roulanish, PC (born 28 November 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 2007-2010 and as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1987 until he stepped down in 2015, most recently for Edinburgh South West. He was one of only three people to have served in the Cabinet continuously from Labour's landslide victory at the 1997 general election until their defeat at the 2010 general election; the other two were Gordon Brown and Jack Straw.
Darling was first appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997, and was promoted to 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 Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2007, a position he remained in until 2010.
From 2012-14, 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. On 3 November 2014, Darling announced that he was standing down at the 2015 general election. 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.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Member of Parliament
- 3 In government
- 3.1 Secretary of State for Transport
- 3.2 Secretary of State for Scotland
- 3.3 Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
- 3.4 Chancellor of the Exchequer
- 3.5 Budget 2008
- 3.6 Budget 2009
- 3.7 Budget 2010
- 4 Later activities
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Styles of address
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Alistair Darling was born in London 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 at Chinthurst School, in Tadworth, Surrey, then in Kirkcaldy, and at the private Loretto School, in Musselburgh. He attended the University of Aberdeen, from where he graduated as a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). He became the President of Aberdeen University Students' Representative Council.
Darling joined the Labour Party aged 23, in 1977. He became a solicitor in 1978, then changed course for the Scots bar and was admitted as an advocate in 1984. In 1982 he was elected to the Lothian Regional Council, 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. He served on the council until he was elected to the House of Commons. He was also a board member for the Lothian and Borders Police and became a governor of Napier College in 1985, until his election as an MP two years later.
Member of Parliament
He first entered Parliament at the 1987 general election in Edinburgh Central, defeating the incumbent Conservative MP, Sir Alexander Fletcher, by 2,262 votes; and remained an Edinburgh MP until he stood down in 2015.
After the creation of the devolved Scottish Parliament, the number of Scottish seats at Westminster was reduced, and the Edinburgh Central constituency he represented was abolished. After the 2005 general election he represented the Edinburgh South West constituency. The Labour Party was so concerned that Darling might be defeated, that several senior party figures, including Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Chancellor Gordon Brown, made encouragement trips to the constituency during the campaign. Despite being a senior Cabinet Minister, 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.
Following the 1997 general election, he entered Cabinet as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In 1998, he was appointed 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 him 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 (later reversed) and the proposed Leeds Supertram, 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, whose £10,000,000,000 projected cost later rose to £15,000,000,000.
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 threats that had been made 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
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In the Cabinet reshuffle of May 2006, he was moved to be 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 thus 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
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".
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 to try to stop the run. Northern Rock borrowed up to £20 billion from the Bank of England, and Darling was criticised for becoming sucked into a position where so much public money was tied up in a private company.
In March 2008, Darling's Budget was criticised in a media campaign spread by a social networking site. Amid anger at the rise in alcohol duties, James Hughes, a landlord in Edinburgh (where Darling's constituency was based) 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 David Cameron, Leader of the Opposition at the time, cited the movement at Prime Minister's Questions on 26 March.
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 £60,000,000. The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, put the value at £1.5bn, or £60 per identity.
In an interview in The Guardian 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.
In October 2008 the government bailed out the Royal Bank of Scotland as part of the 2008 bank rescue package; Darling said in 2018 that the country was hours away from a breakdown of law and order if the bank had not been bailed out.
10% income tax band
Darling's predecessor, Gordon Brown, just before he became Prime Minister, had abolished the 10% starting rate on income tax and reduced the basic rate of income tax from 22% to 20% in his final budget on 21 March 2007; this 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 taxpayers would be marginally better off as a result of these changes, around 5,100,000 low earners (including those earning less than £18,000 annually) would have been worse off. On 18 October 2007, the Treasury released statistics which established that childless people 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 about the additional tax burden for some put immense pressure onto the government; including 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 that year's personal tax allowance by £600 funded by borrowing an extra £2.7 billion.
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.
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.
Darling also announced that Personal allowance would be tapered down by £1 for every £2 earned above £100,000 until it reached zero. This resulted in an anomalous effective marginal tax rate of 60% above £100,000, with the marginal tax rate returning to 40% for incomes above £112,950.
Following the defeat of the Labour Party at the 2010 general election, Darling announced that he intended to leave frontbench 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."
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.
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".
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".
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.
In 2010, he resigned from the Faculty of Advocates as they were investigating his financial affairs.
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. 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.
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. At 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.
Darling had a brief previous marriage when young, 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.
Styles of address
- 1953–1987: Alistair Darling Esq.
- 1987–1997: Alistair Darling MP
- 1997–2015: The Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP
- 2015: The Rt Hon Alistair Darling
- 2015–: The Rt Hon The Lord Darling of Roulanish PC
- Productivity, Energy and Industry (2006)
- Social Security (1998-2001)
- Association, Press (2015-12-09). "Alistair Darling, former British chancellor, joins Morgan Stanley board". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Scottish independence: Darling launches Better Together campaign". BBC News. 24 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- "Alistair Darling to stand down as MP". BBC News. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "No. 61427". The London Gazette. 4 December 2015. p. 23850.
- Stewart, Heather (2016-06-01). "George Osborne and Alistair Darling unite against Vote Leave". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Darling, Alistair". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 28 December 2004.
- "Some former pupils show the way". The Herald. Glasgow. 6 October 1998. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Black, Andrew (2014-08-25). "A brief history of Alistair Darling". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- p5, Private Eye no. 1218, 5–18 September 2008
- "Who's who in Brown's Cabinet". 2007-06-27. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1988 (c. 42)".
- "Tony Blair's 1997 Cabinet: Where are they now?". 2015-05-19. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Profile: Alistair Darling". BBC News. 2011-09-04. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Government scraps trams extension". BBC News. 20 July 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "Tram refusal a slap in the face". BBC News. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "Government backs 10bn Crossrail". BBC News. 20 July 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Cochrane, Alan (2011-09-01). "The truth behind Alistair Darling's attack on Gordon Brown". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "Simon Hoggart's sketch: Darling, you're so dreary". The Guardian. London. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- "US private equity firm eyes Rock". BBC News. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Northern Rock & Virgin: who wins?". BBC News. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "UK to guarantee Northern Rock deposits". Financial Times. 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- Inman, Phillip; Elliott, Larry; Hencke, David (2008-02-18). "Darling under fire as Northern Rock is nationalised". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- 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". stv.tv.[dead link]
- "Fraud Risk To Millions After 'Catastrophic' Records Blunder". Archived from the original on 4 July 2007.
- "Discs 'worth £1.5bn' to criminals". BBC. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
- Aitkenhead, Decca (29 August 2008). "Storm warning". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Oakeshott, Isabel; Smith, David (31 August 2008). "Labour in turmoil over Alistair Darling gaffe". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- "Britain was hours from breakdown of law and order during GFC: Ex-chancellor". Stuff (Fairfax). 29 May 2018.
- Webster, Philip (14 May 2008). "Gordon Brown pays £2.7 billion to end 10p tax crisis". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Britain cannot afford any further fiscal stimulus, King warns Kathryn Hopkins, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 March 2009 15.33 GMT.
- "At-a-glance: Budget 2009". BBC. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Gordon Brown warns economic storm not over". BBC News. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
- "Chancellor Alistair Darling opens the Budget". British Broadcasting Company. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
- "Darling leaves frontbench politics after more than 20 years", Times Online, 17 May 2010 Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling: 'I am taking a year out'". BBC News. 7 September 2010.
- "MPs' expenses claims – key details". BBC News. 19 June 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Darling 'very sorry' over claim". BBC. 1 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2009.
- "Alistair Darling resigns from law body as it investigates his conduct – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Scottish Tory Party conference: Labour's Darling delivers pro-Union message bbc.co.uk, 8 June 2013
- "Scottish debate: Salmond and Darling in angry clash over independence". The Guardian. 5 August 2014.
- "Labour figures shun Better Together over Tory role – Top stories". The Scotsman. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- "Election 2015: SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scots landslide'". BBC News. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- Joe Murphy "Cabinet's own marriage failures force retreat on traditional wedlock", The Daily Telegraph, 14 January 2001
- Mason, Rowena (1 July 2012). "I smoked marijuana, admits Chuka Umunna". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- 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.
- Darling, Alistair (2011). Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11. Atlantic Books. ISBN 0857892797.
- Torrance, David (2006). The Scottish Secretaries. Birlinn Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84158-476-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alistair Darling.|
- Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer HM Treasury (archived)
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Kaupthing Controversy theukgovernment.com
- "Alistair Darling collected news and commentary". The Guardian.
- BBC Radio 4 Profile
- Lord Darling of Roulanish
- Alistair Darling | Politics | The Guardian