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Alistair Darling, who was Labour chancellor of the exchequer during the financial crisis, has died at the age of 70.
A spokesperson for the Darling family announced the death of the veteran Labour politician at lunchtime on Thursday.
A highly popular politician across party lines, Darling’s death will come as a shock to many at Westminster and in the City of London, where he was a well-known figure.
He had been suffering from cancer but had chosen to keep his condition private, a friend of the former chancellor said. He died peacefully in Edinburgh on Thursday morning with his wife Maggie and children by his side, the friend said.
A statement issued by his family said: “Mr Darling, the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team.”
Jeremy Hunt, current Conservative chancellor, said Darling would be remembered as “one of the great chancellors”. He added: “He will be remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil.”
Darling was an MP from 1987 until he stepped down from the House of Commons in 2015, most recently representing Edinburgh South West.
He held various senior positions in the Labour government including secretary of state for transport, Scotland and business before being promoted to chancellor in 2007.
Darling ran the Treasury for three years until Labour lost the general election in May 2010, overseeing the UK government’s interventions during the global credit crunch, including the nationalisation of large parts of the banking sector.
His cross-party appeal made him an obvious choice to chair the Better Together campaign, which led the successful “No” campaign in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. He was also passionately opposed to Brexit.
After leaving politics Darling joined the board of Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, and took up a seat in the House of Lords. He retired from the upper house in 2020.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Alistair Darling. My heart goes out to his family, particularly Maggie, Calum and Anna, whom he loved so dearly.
“Alistair lived a life devoted to public service. He will be remembered as the chancellor whose calm expertise and honesty helped to guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis.
“He was a life-long advocate for Scotland and the Scottish people and his greatest professional pride came from representing his constituents in Edinburgh.
“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have benefited from Alistair’s counsel and friendship. He was always at hand to provide advice built on his decades of experience — always with his trademark wry, good humour.”
Lord Stewart Wood, who was a Downing Street adviser during the financial crash, said Darling was a “wise, calm and clever politician, an extremely funny and generous man”.
Kezia Dugdale, former Labour leader in Scotland, said: “Compelling intellect, wicked sense of humour, phenomenal public servant and the most loving father and husband. Such a great, great loss.”