UK Politics

Liam Byrne was ready to quit over 'no money' note

Liam Byrne MP Image copyright PA
Image caption Liam Byrne spoke of the "anguish" he felt after his note to David Laws was made public.

Former Treasury minister Liam Byrne has said he felt ready to leave public life after a light-hearted note he left for his successor was used to criticise Labour after the 2010 election.

The note said: "Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam."

His successor, Lib Dem David Laws, broke with tradition and made the note public, accusing Mr Byrne of flippancy.

Mr Byrne said he had been following a tradition dating back to Churchill.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Laws took over from Liam Byrne as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2010

And he had never expected his attempt to be humorous would become a "centrepiece" of the Conservative Party's victorious 2015 general election campaign.

The Birmingham MP, 46, told a Cheltenham Literature Festival "business breakfast" audience a combination of his father's death from alcoholism and the furore over the note had left him feeling "completely" ashamed.

And although he had never seriously contemplated suicide, he had sought solace with his uncle in Dorset.

Fail better

"I had not been able to save my dad from drinking, and I had written this note that was now being used to hammer the Labour Party," he said.

"So I, in my desperation, in a real moment of anguish, took myself to my uncle, who is the wisest man I know.

"He walked me up to the cliff at the back of his house in Dorset, and I was kind of ready to throw myself off.

"I said, 'What am I supposed to do?'

"And he gave me a brilliant line from Samuel Beckett: 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'"

In 2010, Mr Byrne admitted it had been "a foolish letter to write."

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