Alistair Darling to stand down as an MP

FORMER chancellor Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together campaign against Scottish independence, has announced that he is to stand down as an MP at the next general election.
The former UK Chancellor will step down at the next general election. Picture: TSPLThe former UK Chancellor will step down at the next general election. Picture: TSPL
The former UK Chancellor will step down at the next general election. Picture: TSPL

In a parting shot, Mr Darling, who said that he wanted to step aside while he was still “relatively young”, threw his weight behind Jim Murphy to become Labour’s new leader in Scotland.

“Jim has the enthusiasm, the energy and above all he’s a fighter. For too long, we have sat back when we needed to fight,” he said last night.

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His decision means the loss of another heavyweight figure for Labour in 2015 alongside Jack Straw, Dame Tessa Jowell and David Blunkett.

Mr Darling, 60, the MP for Edinburgh South West, was one of only three cabinet ministers to serve continuously throughout the years of the last Labour government from 1997 to 2010.

When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, he was given the post of chancellor and swiftly found himself at the eye of the storm with the collapse of Northern Rock and the subsequent global banking crisis. He later revealed that No 10 had unleashed “the forces of hell” on him after he issued a stern warning about the likely severity of the recession.

His leadership of the cross-party Better Together campaign from 2012 was criticised in some quarters for being too negative, focusing relentlessly on the economic risks of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.

He surprised some, however, when he got the better of SNP leader Alex Salmond in the first of their two televised debates in the run-up to the referendum vote, although the First Minister was generally perceived to have won the return match.

However, last night he expressed exasperation that since the vote in September, support for Labour in Scotland has collapsed while there has been a surge in support for the SNP.

“My frustration is that we actually won,” he said. “You can’t say it often enough. We made the arguments, we had confidence in ourselves.”

Polls in Scotland show surging support for the SNP despite its unsuccessful Yes campaign, with a YouGov survey finding 52 per cent of people favoured leaving the UK only weeks after the vote to stay in the Union.

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Two recent opinion polls have also suggested Labour is on track to lose the vast majority of its Scottish seats at Westminster to the SNP at the next general election.


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Mr Darling also said he feared that unless Labour can halt the SNP advance, Scotland would soon be confronted with another independence referendum. “Most people in Scotland don’t want to be living in neverendum land,” he said.

He also said that Prime Minister David Cameron had been “unwise” to inflame sentiment by linking further devolution for Scotland to the issue of

“English votes for English laws” – including possibly barring

Scottish MPs from voting on income tax at Westminster.

He said such a move would create “inherent instability” and could be disastrous in a future financial crisis, if the markets felt that a UK government did not have full control over the ability to raise income tax at Westminster. “If you can’t raise money, it has huge repercussions, not just on what you can spend – on your creditworthiness,” he said.

Mr Darling also said he hoped to use his experience by helping a campaign to keep Britain in Europe in a future referendum, saying that such a vote now seemed inevitable at some point, whoever wins the next election.

“It’s a boil that has to be lanced,” he said, but he warned that the Scottish referendum had shown the danger of ceding too much ground to your opponents. “If you sit back and wait till the other lot have taken so much ground then you’re on the back foot,” he said. “You pay a heavy price.”

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Last night, politicians paid tribute to Mr Darling. Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was a man of “values, decency and kindness” who had distinguished himself as an “extraordinary public servant”. He added: “From helping to get people back to work and tackling poverty, to building industrial prosperity, Alistair was a minister who showed both conviction and competence.

“He can also take pride that, as chancellor, he helped steer our country through the worst financial crisis to hit the world in living memory. His was a calm head when calm heads were needed. When he could have left frontline politics, he took on the role as chair of Better Together. He will always be remembered for leading and winning that campaign, and keeping Scotland in our United Kingdom.”

Former foreign secretary David Miliband called Mr Darling “a gentle giant of politics: high on integrity, low on ego”.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “Very sad to hear Alistair

Darling is standing down at the next election. He has made an immense contribution to our country and our party.”

William Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, tweeted: “Huge contribution to public life made by @togetherdarling: showed politics can be honourable, decent & change countless lives for the better.”

And Conservative MP Matt Hancock tweeted: “Sad to hear Alistair Darling to stand down. He was supremely courteous, and supportive to me when I was newly elected. A loss to the Commons.”


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