Former British chancellor Alistair Darling, who died Thursday, pictured arriving for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund's financial committee during the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington on April 25, 2009. File photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Alistair Darling, the British chancellor credited with steering Britain through the 2008 global financial crisis and a 28-year veteran of Parliament, died Thursday aged 70, following a short illness.
Darling, who served a three-year spell as chancellor in the Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and held an array of high-level posts in Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet, passed away after being treated in an Edinburgh hospital, according to a family spokesperson.
"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," read a statement issued on the family's behalf.
Darling took a series of controversial emergency steps in late 2007 to bring the banking system back from the brink following massive losses and runs on British banks and financial institutions, including providing a 100% taxpayer guarantee for savers' deposits and lending $25 billion to Northern Rock.
In 2008 he spent tens of billions bailing out Royal Bank of Scotland, which included NatWest, Lloyds Bank, and Halifax Bank of Scotland, effectively nationalizing them.
He also ushered in reform of the financial system to rein in the most egregious excesses of what was termed at the time as "casino banking" by banks' investment banking divisions and ring-fence off those operations from their retail S&L business.
Tributes poured in from across the political spectrum led by Labor leader Keir Starmer who said he was deeply saddened by the death of the Scot who he said had lived a life dedicated to public service, and Scotland in particular.
"He will be remembered as the chancellor whose calm expertise helped guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis, Starmer wrote in a statement posted on X.
He added that he felt incredibly fortunate to have benefited from his counsel and advice drawn from his decades of experience.
Blair called him the safest pair of hands he knew.
"He was highly capable, though modest, understated but never to be underestimated, always kind and dignified even under the intense pressure politics can generate.
"He was the safest of safe hands. I knew he could be given any position in the Cabinet and be depended upon. I liked him and respected him immensely as a colleague and as a friend," said Blair.
Brown, who Darling succeeded as chancellor after Blair stepped down in 2007, said in a post on X that he was among the many who relied on Darling's "wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humor" and that he would be missed by everyone who knew him.
The current chancellor, Conservative Jeremy Hunt, said Darling was "one of the great chancellors."
"He will be remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil".
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