Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quick Thinker Is Wheeled out for Yet Another Crisis

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quick Thinker Is Wheeled out for Yet Another Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN

ALISTAIR DARLING tells an after dinner tale that points up his low-key style - and a knack for shifting the blame which could prove crucial in his new job at the transport department.

Soon after he became Social Security Secretary, a hard-up constituent rolled up to his advice surgery in Edinburgh clutching a letter from the dole office which began: "The Secretary of State has decided to cut your benefit .

. ."

"Who is this ****!" the man asked.

D'yae know him?" Mr Darling instantly replied that he knew of him, and would take up the complaint first thing in the morning.

A quick thinker and reliable performer, his distinctive silver hair is familiar sight in the nation's television and radio studios whenever the Government is in trouble.

He is wheeled out to defend Labour on issues which go well beyond his ministerial brief because he is trusted by Tony Blair to put the party's case robustly and without slip-ups.

During last year's general election campaign he fronted a series of press conferences while bigger names such as John Prescott and Jack Straw were kept away from the cameras.

Mr Darling's Scottish accent belies the fact that he was born in London, and settled in Scotland only at the age of 12 when his family moved there. He went to seven different primary schools, an experience which he says made me not afraid of change". Later he was a boarder at Scotland's oldest independent school, Loretto, before reading law at Aberdeen University.

A Scottish advocate, his skills at mastering complex briefs and putting reasoned arguments have served him well in both his legal and political careers. Now aged 48, he has been an MP since 1987. His political leanings have tended to go with the flow from "sensible Left" to firmly New Labour - as the party has changed.

As a municipal socialist in the early Eighties, he backed fashionable Leftwing causes including the creation by councils of "nuclear-free zones". …

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