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The Right Honourable
 Alistair Darling 

Assumed office 
28 June 2007
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Gordon Brown

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)

In office
13 June 2003 – 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Helen Liddell
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander

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 (27 July 1998 – 8 June 2001)
In office
27 July 1998 – 29 May 2002
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Succeeded by Andrew Smith

In office
3 May 1997 – 27 July 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by William Waldegrave
Succeeded by Stephen Byers

Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh South West
Edinburgh Central (1987–2005)
Assumed office 
11 June 1987
Preceded by Alexander MacPherson Fletcher
Majority 7,242 (16.5%)

Born 28 November 1953 (1953-11-28) (age 56)
Hendon, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Margaret Vaughan
Residence 11 Downing Street (Official)
Edinburgh and Great Bernera (Private)
Alma mater University of Aberdeen

Alistair Maclean Darling (born 28 November 1953) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South West since 1987, and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 28 June 2007. Prior to this, he held a number of Cabinet positions, being one of only three people to have served in Cabinet continuously since Labour was elected in 1997.


Early life

Alistair Darling was born in London[1] the son of a civil engineer, Thomas, and his wife, Anna. He is the great-nephew of Sir William Darling who was Conservative MP for Edinburgh South (1945–1957). He was educated in Kirkcaldy, and the private Loretto School, Musselburgh, East Lothian, then attended the University of Aberdeen where he was awarded a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). He became the head of Aberdeen University Students Union. Before joining the Labour Party at the age of 23 in 1977, Darling was a supporter of the International Marxist Group, the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International.[2][3][4] 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.[2] 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 has remained an MP since.

After the creation of the Scottish Parliament the number of Scottish seats at Westminster was reduced, his Edinburgh Central seat was abolished. Since the 2005 election he has 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 supportive visits 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.[5] 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; he is one of only three people who have been in the Cabinet ever since (the others are Gordon Brown and Jack Straw).

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 headed the new department until 2002 when he was transferred to the Department for Transport, in the wake of his predecessor Stephen Byers resigning.

Transport Secretary

Darling was given a brief to "take the department out of the headlines" and was widely considered to have achieved this, although he was also criticised for achieving too little else whilst he held the transport brief. 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. While Transport Secretary he was voted Britain's most boring politician two years in a row.[6]

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.

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

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) are female and dubbed his team, "Darling's Darlings".[7]

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,[8] and Darling was criticized for becoming sucked into a position where so much public money was tied up in a private company.[9]

In March 2008, Alistair Darling was criticised in some circles for the Budget by a media campaign spread by a social networking site. James Hughes, the landlord of Utopia Pub 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 the UK to follow Hughes, barring Darling from their pubs.[10] The story was eventually picked up by most national press and broadcast media in the UK, and leader of the opposition cited the movement at Prime Minister's Questions on 26 March.[11]

Child benefit data scandal

Darling was Chancellor when the personal and confidential 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.[12] The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, put the value at £1.5bn, or £60 per identity.[13]

Storm warning

In an interview in The Guardian[14] 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.[15]

Budget 2008

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

10p Tax

Darling’s predecessor, Gordon Brown, before becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, axed the 10% starting rate of taxation whilst reducing basic rate income tax from 22% to 20%, in his final budget on 21 March 2007, to come into effect in the tax year starting 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. On 13 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.[16]

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 is traded in for a new car. A 50% tax band was announced for earners of over £150,000 to start the following tax year.[17]

Budget 2010

Gordon Brown confirmed on 10 March 2010 that Alistair Darling would deliver his third budget before the general election, and said it would be delivered on 24 March 2010.[18]

Personal life

Darling had a brief previous marriage when young,[19] 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.

He enjoys listening to Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Leonard Cohen and recently American rock band The Killers.[20]

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".[21][22][23]

On 1 June 2009, Darling apologised "unreservedly" about a mistaken claim for £700, and had agreed to repay the money. He was supported by the Prime Minister, who referred to the incident as an inadvertent mistake.[24]


  • Torrance, David (2006). The Scottish Secretaries. Birlinn Publishers. ISBN 9781841584768. 


  1. ^ "Darling, Alistair".,,-1271,00.html. 
  2. ^ a b p5, Private Eye no. 1218, 5–18 September 2008
  3. ^ Chris Marsden "Britain’s Chancellor Alistair Darling and the International Marxist Group", World Socialist Website, 27 September 2008.
  4. ^ George Galloway "If The Recession Hits, Will Alistair Be Our Darling?", Daily Record, 10 March 2008.
  5. ^ "Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1988 (c. 42)". 
  6. ^ "The boring list: 20 titans of tedium". The Independent. 
  7. ^ "Simon Hoggart's sketch: Darling, you're so dreary". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ "US private equity firm eyes Rock". BBC News. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  9. ^ "Northern Rock & Virgin: who wins?". BBC News. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Alistair Darling You're Barred". Facebook. 
  11. ^ "Pub landlords set about barring Chancellor from every boozer in Britain". The Sun.  See also: "'Ban Alistair Darling from every British pub'". The Telegraph.  and "You're barred, pub campaigners tell chancellor". The Guardian.  and "Campaign launched to ban the Chancellor from every pub in the countryLatest Scottish news and headlines from Scotland". 
  12. ^ "Fraud Risk To Millions After 'Catastrophic' Records Blunder".,,91211-1293637,00.html. 
  13. ^ "Discs 'worth £1.5bn' to criminals". BBC. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  14. ^ "Storm warning". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ "Labour in turmoil over Alistair Darling gaffe". London: The Times. 
  16. ^ "Gordon Brown pays £2.7 billion to end 10p tax crisis". London: Times Online. 
  17. ^ "At-a-glance: Budget 2009". BBC. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Joe Murphy "Cabinet's own marriage failures force retreat on traditional wedlock", Daily Telegraph, 14 January 2001
  20. ^ "Alistair Darling: The man who stepped into limelight on the darkest of all Mondays". London: Times Online. 
  21. ^ "MPs' expenses claims - key details". BBC News. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  22. ^ Watt, Holly (2009-05-08). "Daily Telegraph: Alistair Darling". Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Darling 'very sorry' over claim". 1 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alex Fletcher
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South West
Edinburgh Central (19872005)

Political offices
Preceded by
William Waldegrave
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Stephen Byers
Preceded by
Harriet Harman
Secretary of State for Social Security
Succeeded by
as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Preceded by
as Secretary of State for Social Security
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
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

Simple English

Alistair Darling was the Chancellor of the Exchequer 2007-2010.

Alistair Maclean Darling (born November 28, 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer from June 2007 to May 2010 and also held several posts in Tony Blair's government. He is the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South West.

Alistair Darling was born in London and was first elected to the House of Commons at the 1987 General Election. His government posts under Tony Blair include: Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1997-1998), Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1998-2002), Transport Secretary (2002-2006), Scottish Secretary (2003-2006) and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (2006-2007).

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