Former Chancellor Alistair Darling has been remembered for “calmness in a crisis” and “wry good humour” following his death aged 70. Lord Darling, who spent almost three decades as an MP and 13 years in a Labour government under Sir Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, died after being treated for cancer.
A statement from his family said yesterday: “Mr Darling, the muchloved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, speaking in Dubai, where he is attending the COP28 climate summit, paid tribute saying: “Alistair’s death has been met with real shock and profound sadness across the whole Labour movement.
“But not just the Labour movement – by everybody who knew and loved him and respected him.
“I was privileged enough to be a friend and to get his wise counsel.
“He was always at hand to provide advice with his trademark wry good humour. He was a real public servant. Our hearts go out to Maggie, his wife, and to his children.”
Former Prime Minister Sir Tony described the veteran politician as a “rarity in politics”, saying he “never met anyone who didn’t like him”.
Sir Tony added: “He was highly capable, though modest, understated but never to be underestimated, always kind and dignified, even under the intense pressure politics can generate.
“He was the safest of safe hands. I knew he could be given any position in the Cabinet and be depended upon. I liked and respected him immensely as a colleague and a friend.”
After holding a series of posts, including Transport Secretary and Scottish Secretary in the Blair government, Lord Darling became Chancellor when Mr Brown took over at Downing Street in 2007.
He steered the UK through the financial crisis of 2008 and Mr Brown recalled yesterday: “I, like many, relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour.” He described his former colleague as a “statesman of unimpeachable integrity whose life was defined by a strong sense of social justice”.
The two men also worked together on Better Together, the cross-party campaign to keep Scotland in the UK ahead of the 2014 independence referendum that Mr Darling chaired.
Mr Brown said Hendon-born Lord Darling had been “resolute and courageous in making the case for Scotland’s place” in the UK.
After leaving the House of Commons, Lord Darling joined the House of Lords, but retired five years after being made a life peer.
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who led the campaign for independence in the 2014 ballot, described him as a “hugely significant figure in UK politics” and an “effective politician”. The two men clashed in TV debates but Mr Salmond said: “Alistair was an extremely courteous man.”
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said Lord Darling “dedicated his life to public service and was a giant of Scottish and UK politics”. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said his predecessor will be “remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil”.
And former Conservative PM Boris Johnson said he was a “towering figure in Labour politics” who “always brought wit, wisdom and intellect to his work”.