The death of Alistair Darling, the man behind the 2008 British bank bailout


Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, carries Gladstone's old budget box before presenting the annual budget to the House of Commons in London, March 24, 2010.

In a long portrait of him published by the Guardian On August 30, 2008, Alistair Darling, then Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom for a little over a year, issued a warning: the world was heading straight towards its worst economic crisis in sixty years. “I believe this is going to have a deeper and more lasting impact than people think. » Two weeks later, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and financial markets were collapsing.

Alistair Darling, who died of cancer on Thursday November 30, two days after turning 70e birthday, was undoubtedly the right person to face this situation. “In a crisis, he was the man you wanted by your side”, recalls Gordon Brown, who was Prime Minister at the same time. During this fall of 2008, with surprise announcements in the early morning, the duo acted to avoid disaster.

“My scariest moment was a phone call from the chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotlandconfided the former chancellor to the BBC a decade later. He told me: “We are facing a real financial hemorrhage.” I asked him, “How long can you last?” What he said shook me to my core: “We will run out of money this afternoon.” »

“The key to success was psychology”

Finally, the announcement of the nationalization of two major British banks – Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group – and a large influx of public money stemmed the panic. “The key to success was psychologyhe confided to World in 2013. The plan sent a clear signal that we were prepared to do everything to support the banks and prevent the economy from collapsing. We had to act decisively, beyond what people expected and quickly. »

These few months have forever changed the image of Alistair Darling. The man had, however, been chosen by Gordon Brown to become Chancellor of the Exchequer because of his self-effacing character. With black eyebrows and white hair, rimmed gles and polite manners, he looked like a provincial notary, and his speeches rarely triggered the slightest emotion.

This austere appearance hid very deep convictions. “His life was dedicated to public service”summarizes Keir Starmer, the current leader of the Labor Party. “He brought what was best in politics: (…) he always tried to do the right thing, not trying to score political points.”adds George Osborne, who was Chancellor of the “Shadow Exchequer” at the same period.

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