Alistair Darling, the Miliband Dilemma and What the Party Must Do Next
Cowley, Jason, New Statesman (1996)
Did anyone emerge with greater credit from the smouldering ruins of the Brown bunker - the Gotterddmmerung of the New Labour years-than Alistair Darling? He did more than simply survive the paranoia, feuding and duplicities of the last days of the Labour government; it was as if he was emboldened by the dysfunction. He wanted to be straight with the electorate about the seriousness of the financial crisis and he challenged his party to wise up to the need for a credible budget deficit programme. And people respected him for it.
Darling was one of only three ministers who held a cabinet post from the beginning of the New Labour governments in 1997 right through to the end in 2010 (the others were Gordon Brown and Jack Straw, neither of whom left office with his reputation enhanced), and he was often used by Tony Blair as a kind of human fire extinguisher to put out the departmental blazes that others more careless had started. For a long period in office, he was perceived as being little more than a grey-haired technocrat, competent, loyal, a soft Brownite. Yet he grew and, in his final role as chancellor - engagingly documented in his memoir, Back From the Brink-became finally much bolder.
He became his own man. In the end, just as the banks were deemed too big to fail, so Darling was too important to sack, which was what Brown would have wished. But that was then. Now, as he tells me, he is "enjoying the freedom" of his new role outside the shadow cabinet and as Labour's most powerful unionist voice in the conflict with Alex Salmond and the separatist Scottish National Party.
On the morning we meet, the GDP figures for the final quarter of 2011 are just out, showing definitively that the economy stopped growing towards the end of 2010. "I think 2011 has proved to be worse than anybody expected," …
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Publication information: Article title: Alistair Darling, the Miliband Dilemma and What the Party Must Do Next. Contributors: Cowley, Jason - Author. Magazine title: New Statesman (1996). Volume: 141. Issue: 5091 Publication date: February 6, 2012. Page number: 16+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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