Alistair Darling, who served as chancellor under Gordon Brown, has died at the age of 70, his family has confirmed.
The Labour Party stalwart became a household name when the then-prime minister gave him the keys to the Treasury back in 2007 – running the department throughout the global banking crisis and staying in post until Mr Brown lost the election in 2010.
But he had been a presence in Tony Blair’s government from the start, beginning as chief secretary to the Treasury in 1997 following Labour’s landslide victory, and going on to run a number of departments – including work and pensions, transport and trade.
Politics latest: Tributes to former chancellor flood in from across UK
Lord Darling’s family confirmed the news on Thursday, saying he had died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the “wonderful care” of the cancer team.
In their statement, they described him as “the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna”.
After the news was announced, tributes poured in from all sides of the political spectrum, led by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said he had “lived a life devoted to public service”.
He said Lord Darling’s “calm expertise and honesty” as chancellor helped guide the country through the 2008 financial crisis, but that his “greatest professional pride” was serving his constituents in Edinburgh as an MP between 1987 and 2015.
Echoing the sentiment, ex-prime minister Mr Brown tweeted that he “like many, relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour”, adding: “He will be missed by all who knew him.”
In another statement, Mr Blair said: “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 him and respected him immensely as a colleague and as a friend.”
One of his Conservative successors, Jeremy Hunt, described him as “one of the great chancellors”, saying he would be “remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil”.
And the woman hoping to follow in his footsteps to the Treasury, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, said she would miss “his advice and his counsel – but, more than anything I will miss his friendship, his kindness and decency, his humour and his warmth”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Lord Darling’s passing “is a huge loss to us all”. He added: “The role he played during the 2014 Independence referendum was vital in keeping our union together. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Despite being Born in London, Lord Darling came from a long line of Scots, and returned to the country for school, before going to the University of Aberdeen, where he became president of the Student’s Representative Council.
After graduating, he became a solicitor, but having joined Labour aged just 23, it wasn’t long before he changed course to enter politics, being elected as a councillor on the Lothian Regional Council in 1982.
He became the MP for Edinburgh South in the 1987 election, ousting the Conservative candidate from the seat. When that constituency was abolished in 2005, he ran for – and won – the seat of Edinburgh South West until he left the Commons in 2015.
Lord Darling also played a prominent role in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 as the chairman of the “Better Together” campaign.
Former first minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said despite the “clashes” the pair had over the country’s future, she “always found him to be a man of intellect and principle”, adding: “He made a significant contribution to politics and public life.”
Lord Darling became a peer in 2015 – named as Baron Darling of Roulanish, He retired from the Lords in 2020.
His former cabinet colleagues from both the Blair and Brown years were among those marking his passing, with Hilary Benn calling him “an able, calm and thoughtful colleague” and Jacqui Smith praising his “warm, humble approach”.
From the other side of the Commons, former Tory prime minister Sir John Major described Lord Darling as “a decent man, who brought civility, reason and intelligence to politics”, while David Cameron said he was “thoroughly kind”.
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