A brief history of Alistair Darling

During a near 30-year career in frontline politics, Alistair Darling was almost never known for being outspoken, despite his left-wing student activist days.

He rose from being a "safe pair of hands" Labour minister to greater prominence as chancellor, steering the UK's troubled banks back from the brink.

Now, he faces the challenge of keeping the UK together as the face of the official campaign to retain the Union ahead of Scotland's independence referendum.

line break
In the beginning
Alistair Darling

Born in London but proudly Scottish, Alistair Darling is himself an example of the very Union he fights to preserve.

He spent his formative years in Edinburgh, attending the city's exclusive Loretto public school, apparently an experience he did not relish.

And despite becoming known as a mild-mannered, non-confrontational lawyer, Mr Darling was associated with far-left policies as a student activist in Aberdeen, and reportedly distributed "Marxist" leaflets at railway stations.

He became an advocate in 1984, two years after being elected to the former Lothian Regional Council.

Although anti-devolution in 1979, Mr Darling had become a supporter by the time the second Scottish referendum was under way.

line break
Entry to politics
Alistair Darling

After becoming an MP in 1987, Mr Darling rose quickly through the Labour ranks, becoming closely linked with efforts to modernise the party.

In opposition he served on the front bench in several roles, including as home affairs spokesman.

It seemed Mr Darling had put his left-wing roots behind him, his image transformed from that of firebrand to troubleshooter.

Ahead of the 1997 election, he also toured the boardrooms of the big City firms, to reassure them over Labour's intentions.

However, in his opposition days, Mr Darling was once said to have been mounting a campaign against Rupert Murdoch's predatory pricing policy, but quietly ditched it when told of Tony Blair's bid to charm the media mogul.

He also opposed a proposal by the then Conservative MP Nicholas Budgen to make the Bank of England independent of the government - one of the subsequent Labour government's first acts.

line break
Call to government
Alistair Darling

Following Labour's landslide 1997 election win, Mr Darling served as chief secretary to the Treasury, putting in place wide-ranging reforms to financial regulation, after the collapses of Barings and BCCI.

He then replaced Harriet Harman as social security secretary (a job later re-named work and pensions secretary), delivering Labour's welfare reforms and taking responsibility for spending a third of the government's budget.

Mr Darling once said he would like to be remembered as "the minister who began to eradicate poverty", but was targeted by pensioners outraged when their pensions were raised by only 75p.

The episode led to a rebellion at Labour's conference in 2000.

Mr Darling, said to have a knack for mastering complex briefs in record time, was parachuted into another "trouble" job in 2002, when Stephen Byers resigned as transport secretary amid the collapse of Railtrack.

His proposals for road pricing - not universally popular among drivers - sparked fierce debate.

Mr Darling's later comments, while at the Department of Trade and Industry, that Britain's future energy needs may have to be met partly by a return to nuclear power, also raised eyebrows.

But all-in-all he played a canny game, remaining a Tony Blair loyalist, while keeping a foot firmly in Gordon Brown's camp.

line break
Number Eleven
Alistair Darling

Probably very little prepared Mr Darling for his near three-year stint as chancellor - the job for which he was handpicked by Mr Brown, on his elevation to PM in June 2007.

Mr Darling, predicted by many commentators to be a Brown "yes" man, staked his territory, memorably warning in the summer of 2008 - not long before the collapse of Lehman Brothers - of the worst financial crisis in 60 years.

The chancellor later said the resulting Brown camp backlash was like having the "forces of hell" unleashed on him, but Mr Darling - to many, a reassuring figure during the banking crisis - stood firm.

When Mr Brown apparently tried to evict his long-time ally (and neighbour) from No11 in the summer of 2009, it was widely reported Mr Darling threatened to resign.

Surrounded by "Move over Darling" newspaper headlines and weakened by internal party divisions, the story goes that Mr Brown backed down and Mr Darling remained where he was.

In his memoirs, published after Labour was voted out of office, Mr Darling said there was a "permanent air of chaos and crisis" when Mr Brown was prime minister.

He also wrote that Tony Blair likened working with his then-chancellor to "having dental treatment with no anaesthetic". Ouch.

line break
Out of office
Alistair Darling

Despite losing the election, Mr Darling was possibly able to take some comfort that his prediction of financial meltdown was, as he put it, "fairly accurate".

And his survival skills ensured he was one of only three - along with Mr Brown and Jack Straw - to remain in cabinet between 1997 and 2010.

After Labour's defeat at the polls and Mr Brown's resignation as PM, Mr Darling was talked of in some quarters as an interim leader.

He remained MP for Edinburgh South West, but decided to step back from frontline politics. But not for long.

line break
Fight for the Union
Alistair Darling

Despite initially insisting he was not interested in leading the pro-Union Better Together campaign (he was "too busy" as an MP) Mr Darling returned to the fray ahead of the 18 September referendum.

Flanked by Tory and Lib Dem politicians, Mr Darling declared: "If we decide to leave the United Kingdom there is no way back."

line break
Beards out
Alistair Darling

Back in the day, one of the most famous things about Mr Darling was his insistence on wearing a beard, because commentators deemed facial hair not very New Labour.

Amid rumours he was under orders to get rid, Mr Darling did eventually shave it off.

The beard was reputedly favoured by wife Maggie.

More on This Story

More Scotland politics stories

RSS

Scotland Live

  1.  
    @trafficscotland Traffic Scotland

    #A75 btwn Annan and Carrutherstown - @ScotTranserv has treated E/B and now working on the W/B. HGV's still stuck in the area. #BeAware

     
  2.  
    08:49: Your pictures - snow in Scotland via Facebook

    Yolanda Preston posts: Believe it or not there's my car under there!

    Picture from facebook

    That's a lot of snow! Be careful in kilsyth as roads really slippy and not cleared and M80 moving slow! There's nothing in Stirling compared to Glasgow! Took me an hour to get to work this morning! ‪#‎traumatic‬

     
  3.  
    @nlcpeople North Lanarkshire

    Transport: no buses to Calderhead HS, McGregors bus to Glencryan School cancelled.

     
  4.  
    @argyllandbute Argyll and Bute

    Thursday schools update: Skipness primary school is closed today

     
  5.  
    08:42: 180 gritters deployed

    Speaking on Good Morning Scotland Transport Minister Derek McKay said: "There've been a few incidents overnight but they've been cleared and the traffic systems have still been working well.

    "Even at the moment, during typical peak hour traffic the road network is still flowing fairly well.

    "There is one issue at the M8 plantation eastbound but its still passable with care, and I think we've prepared very well for the weather and the snow.

    "With 180+ gritters out, we've worked very hard to prepare the roads for these conditions."

     
  6.  
    08:39: Ten mile tailback BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Earlier accident #GW #M8 eastbound at plantation causing a ten mile tailback to erskine bridge.

     
  7.  
    08:36: Highland Council Steven McKenzie BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

    29 schools and nurseries shut in the Highlands. The closures involve 4,795 pupils.

     
  8.  
    08:34: Today's papers

    The decision by the Scottish government to announce a moratorium on fracking dominates front pages in The Scotsman and The National.

    Scotland's newspapers frontpages

    Elsewhere, the Scottish Daily Mail leads with the story of councils using anti-terror laws "to spy on dog walkers, tanning salons and shops selling fireworks".

    An axe killer walking the streets four years after being detained without limit of time is the lead story in the Daily Record. The Herald claims fee-paying students at the University of the West of Scotland are to be offered their money back if they fail to graduate.

    Read the full paper review here.

     
  9.  
    Call 0500 92 95 00 or text 80295 08:28: Morning Call BBC Radio Scotland

    After an advertising expert criticised over-reliance on traditional Scottish imagery such as kilts and bagpipes to encourage tourism, we ask:

    Are bagpipes and Nessie the best way to promote Scotland?

    And following a collapse in sales of Scottish potatoes last year, the Press and Journal are urging shoppers to buy as much Scottish and British produce as possible.

    Would you change your shopping habits to help Scottish farmers?

     
  10.  
    @nlcpeople North Lanarkshire

    B-Line buses to following schools cancelled: Braidhurst, Our Lady & St Francis, St Serf's PS, Keir Hardie PS

     
  11.  
    @ScotRail ScotRail

    NEW: We've got a broken down train between #Drumgelloch & Airdrie. Services through these stations may be delayed. More info soon.

     
  12.  
    @SouthLanCouncil South Lanarkshire

    Closure update (8.10am) - Coulter Primary School and Walston Primary School (no water in the area)

     
  13.  
    08:13: Public 'back police guns policy'

    Just over half of respondents have backed the routine arming of firearms officers in a study commissioned by a police body.

    Armed police

    The survey of 1,000 people by the Scottish Police Authority suggested 53% were supportive of the policy.

    Almost one in three said it increased their confidence in the police.

    In October last year, following growing criticism from politicians and civic society, Police Scotland decided to back down on the controversial policy

     
  14.  
    @scotborders Scottish Borders Council

    School buses run by Telfords in Hawick area cancelled - H05, H08, H10, H13, H19 #sbctravel

     
  15.  
    @AnasSarwar 08:10: Anas Sarwar

    I can confirm that Sarwar snr. has resigned as Governor of Punjab. An honest man, doing the honest thing. More details soon...

     
  16.  
    @trafficscotland Traffic Scotland

    #A90 E/B at Walnut Grove (near Friarton Bridge) - RTC blocking lane 1 & 2, traffic not moving and police are en-route #BeAware

     
  17.  
    #ScotlandLive 08:05: Snowy snaps on twitter

    Who has today's best snow pictures?

    The BBC's Laura Bicker(@BBCLBicker) was hard at work creating a snow angel late last night.

    Laura Bicker making a snow angel

    While BBC reader Mr D. Lamont(Demo_D3005) has also been making the most of the snowy weather, saying "Perfect #snow in #Kinross for #SnowCars".

    Snowy car on twitter

    Tweet us your pictures to @BBCScotlandNews.

     
  18.  
    @trafficscotland Traffic Scotland

    A90 M90 J11 Barnhill - St Madoes - Accident, 2 lanes closed Northbound for up to 45 minutes

     
  19.  
    @SPEnergyNetwork SP Energy Networks

    We are aware of a #POWERCUT in #KA26 #Girvan. Our engineers are working to restore supplies. Sorry for the inconvenience.

     
  20.  
    @SouthLanCouncil South Lanarkshire

    Braehead and Carmichael primary schools have just announced they are closed today

     
  21.  
    07:57: Dumfries and Galloway

    Council says 22 schools now closed in Dumfries and Galloway.

    Details on the council website.

     
  22.  
    @scotborders Scottish Borders Council

    School closures so far: Yarrow, Kirkhope and Broughton primary schools. A number of bus services also not running.

     
  23.  
    07:47: On the roads... BBC Scotland Travel Latest
    • A71 Newhouse to Livingstone: very heavy traffic.
    • A73 through Airdrie: Quite a bit of overnight snow. Hearing A73 partially blocked by an accident between Thankerton and A70 Hynford Bridge.
    • A725 South Lanarkshire: A724 junction at Blantyre partially blocked by accident eastbound.
    • A702 Penicuik to Edinburgh city bypass: Drifting snow.
    • M80: Reports that traffic at a standstill at Castelcary.
    • Lochgelly A92 Eastbound: Blocked multi-vehicle accident between B9149 (Lochgelly) and Chapel Level, Kirkcaldy. Support vehicle is en-route. There is also a lane closure on the Westbound carriageway.
     
  24.  
    Email: newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk Your views - Getting Scots active

    What would get you off your couch? What about your friends and neighbours? Are Scots just lazy?

    Send us your views.

     
  25.  
    07:40: 'Get Scots active' call

    Fifteen medical organisations in Scotland have called for radical action to improve levels of physical activity.

    Couch potato

    Physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, dentists, anaesthetists and GPs joined together as the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties.

    They said as much effort should be made to increase activity as was already put into encouraging people to stop smoking or drinking.

     
  26.  
    @CowdenbeathPol CowdenbeathPolice

    Serious road accident on A92 Eastbound between Lochgelly & Kirkcaldy West. Might be best planning an alternative route meantime.

     
  27.  
    @trafficscotland

    #A725 E/B at Blantyre - Traffic very slow on approach due to RTC,recovery is on-going but please #BeAware

     
  28.  
    Good Morning Scotland Gary Robertson BBC Radio Scotland

    Young carers in Scotland are unhappy and stressed - but proud according to survey by @CarersTrust #bbcgms 0750

     
  29.  
    @SETrunkRoads Amey SE Trunk Roads

    Current road surface conditions A7 Terrona #DriveSafe #Winterinfo

    Road A7
     
  30.  
    07:31: Snow showers, sun and light winds BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Met Office Amber "be prepared" warning for snow showers across central and western parts of Scotland. 5cm at low levels, 10cm+ over the high ground.

    Showers will gradually become less frequent and largely confined to the north-west and for most it will be a bright day with spells of sunshine . The best of the sunshine will be across Grampian, Angus and into Fife.

    Temperatures today will reach around 2 or 3 Celsius inland, 5 in coastal areas.

    Light winds for most although a brisk north-westerly will affect the west the Western Isles and the Southern Hebrides.

     
  31.  
    @NWTrunkRoads BEAR NW Trunk Roads

    Conditions on #A9 #Aviemore at 07:15 this morning #snow and poor visibility - are you prepared to travel?

    Snow
     
  32.  
    @trafficscotland Traffic Scotland

    #A92 btwn Lochgelly & Kirkcaldy - All lanes blocked N/B & 1 lane blocked S/B due to RTC. Please avoid the area for the moment.

     
  33.  
    07:23: Tennis: Murray v Berdych BBC Sport Scotland

    You can follow live coverage of Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final against Czech Tomas Berdych from 08:15 GMT.

    BBC Sport Murray v Berdych stats

    Tune into BBC Two, watch via the BBC Red Button and online, or follow text commentary and analysis here.

     
  34.  
    07:13: 'Home rule'

    A "Home Rule bill for Scotland" would be introduced within the first 100 days of a Labour government, according to the party's leader.

    Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband will make the commitment during a visit to Glasgow later.

    The SNP said any suggestion the bill would amount to real Home Rule was "laughable".

     
  35.  
    07:05: Andy! Kheredine Idessane BBC Scotland

    Here's @andy_murray practising on court 17 ahead of this morning's big SF v Berdych, live on BBC TV & radio from 8am

    Andy Murray
     
  36.  
    Email: newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk 07:02: Your pictures - snow in Scotland

    John Collins was out early to walk his dog in central Scotland.

    Dog in snow

    Send us pictures of how things look out your way.

     
  37.  
    07:00: Waking up to a white blanket Louise Sayers BBC Scotland

    Good Morning, and welcome to today's edition of Scotland Live.

    People across Scotland are seeing cold and snowy conditions. North Lanarkshire seems to have seen some of the deepest snowfall, with reports of up to 8 inches of snow overnight.

    Take care when out and about - particularly on the roads.

     

Features

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.