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Alistair Darling
Back from the Brink : 1,000 Days at Number 11

Order the book from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de

Article added on March 1, 2012
  
Britain has gone through rough times since 2007. In the account of his 1,000 Days At Number 11, the former Chancellor Alistair Darling (*1953) tells as his side of the story, covering the period from when he took office on June 28, 2007 until the end of the Labour government on May 11, 2010 with the resignation of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In Back from the Brink (
Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de), the chancellor writes how the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) went bust. Three weeks after Lehman Brothers had collapsed in the United States, he had to board a plane: “By the time I landed in Luxembourg, RBS was worth 40 per cent less than before take-off.” Later the same day, the RBS Chairman Sir Tom McKillop called Alistair Darling out of a meeting with his follow finance ministers. When the chancellor's special adviser, Geoffrey Spence, asked his superior what the phone call was all about, Alistair Darling replied: “He told me that his bank is going to go bust this afternoon. And he asked me what we were going to do.” Hollywood could not have written a more dramatic script.

Alistair Darling's book is mainly about the banking crisis. His statements are dramatic. Back from the Brink is about “how close we came to the collapse of one of the world's largest banks, a collapse that would have brought down the global banking system within hours.”

When the book was published, most reviewers focused on the tensions between the chancellor and the prime minister, the former chancellor Gordon Brown, who thought of himself as a genius, whereas in reality, he was an autistic dilettante. The reviewers focus was too narrow. The book covers far more ground.

However, the criticism of the prime minister is more than notable. When Alistair Darling took over the Treasury, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was persuaded that the civil servants who had previously worked for him as chancellor had turned against him. Alistair Darling writes: “...as I began increasingly to to take a different view from him, he would accuse me of having been taken prisoner by his erstwhile civil servants. At first it was exasperating, but in time it became a source of anger. Worse still, it eventually led to dysfunction at the top of the government.”

Note that Brown and Darling were longtime friends. In 2009, Brown tried to replace Darling as Chancellor with Ed Balls. Let's also not that the current Labour leader Ed Miliband remained loyal to Brown to the bitter end. Balls and the younger Miliband were Brown's “attack dogs”, according to Darling. After the loss of power, Ed Balls became Ed Miliband's shadow chancellor. So much for a credible alternative to the current government in Britain!



When Alistair Darling arrived at the Treasury, it was a “something of a cultural change... especially for senior officials” who had worked for a decade under Gordon Brown, who had mainly dealt with them through his special advisers Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. It took Alistair Darling some time to convince the senior Treasury officials that he valued their advice.

Alistair Darling points out to some achievement of the Labour government. The UK had not suffered a recession in the late 1990s after the dot.com bubble. The UK “debt levels had fallen from being the second highest of the world's seven largest economies to the second lowest behind Canada.”

One of the first things Alistair Darling realized as Chancellor was that the country was “very dependent on taxed coming from the financial services industry” (some 25% of corporate taxes; bankers' bonuses and salaries made a big contribution to income tax receipts). Alistair Darling admits that he had no knowledge of was what about to come.

Alistair Darling saw the wreck of Northern Rock, with a business model heavily relying on raising funds from (mainly US) financial institutions rather than individual savers. The former Chancellor recalls that he himself got a mortgage from a bank online a few years before the crisis, just “by the click of a mouse”. Like millions, he profited from the fact that “it had become cheaper to pay off a home loan than to rent.” As for Northern Rock, in the end, he had to rescue the bank. For the Chancellor, “... it was a valuable preparation for what was to come a year later.”

Among the other disasters that happened under Alistair Darling, let's mention the Child Benefit data 25 million people on two discs lost by the postal service. The package was not recorded or registered. The Chancellor was not directly responsible for the dilettantism, but of course the Labour government got blamed for it.

Alistair Darling has nice words for bankers who behaved as Gods and than had to ask the State to save them. He criticizes the Tory opposition with George Osborne and David Cameron not being very constructive during the financial crises. The politicians and bankers of Iceland get their fair share of criticism too.

The book contains many more dark chapters of British history. The lighter moments are not many. Just one detail: When Alistair Darling left Downing Street Number 10 for the first time as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was handed an empty folder by the Cabinet Secretary saying that “ministers cannot be seen to leave Downing Street empty-handed. I accepted the prop.”

Alistair Darling: Back from the Brink. 1,000 Days at Number 11. Atlantic Books London, 2011, 337 pages (Hardcover). Order it from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de.

Check also our biographical David Cameron article, with a large section added on March 1, 2012. In addition, have a look at our articles about the Cabinet Gordon Brown 2007 and the
2010 UK general election. - Today's deals at Amazon.com - Special offers from Amazon.co.uk - David Cameron books from Amazon.co.uk.


Alistair Darling: Back from the Brink. 1,000 Days at Number 11. Atlantic Books London, 2011, 337 pages (Hardcover). Order it from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de.





Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.