Former chancellor Alistair Darling has been remembered for his “calmness in a crisis” and his “wry good humour” following his death aged 70.
Mr Darling, who spent almost three decades as an MP and 13 years in government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, died after spending time in hospital being treated for cancer.
A statement issued on behalf of his family on Thursday said: “The death of Alistair Darling, a former chancellor of the Exchequer and long-serving member of the Labour cabinet, was announced in Edinburgh today.
“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.”
After holding a series of government posts, including transport secretary and Scottish secretary in the Blair government, Mr Darling was appointed chancellor when Mr Brown took over at Number 10 in 2007.
While chancellor, he steered the UK through the financial crisis of 2008, with Mr Brown recalling that he “guided the Treasury and the United Kingdom through traumatic financial events”.
Describing Mr Darling as a “statesman of unimpeachable integrity whose life was defined by a strong sense of social justice”, former prime minister Mr Brown said: “I, like many, relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour.”
The two men also worked together in Better Together, the cross-party campaign set up to keep Scotland in the UK in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, which Mr Darling chaired.
Mr Brown said Mr Darling had been “resolute and courageous in making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom”.
After leaving the House of Commons, Mr Darling joined the House of Lords, but retired five years after being made a life peer.
Paying tribute to him, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “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 lifelong advocate for Scotland and the Scottish people and his greatest professional pride came from representing his constituents in Edinburgh.
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. pic.twitter.com/o8xEconrIx
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 30, 2023
“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.
“Alistair will be missed by all those whose lives he touched. His loss to the Labour Party, his friends and his family is immeasurable.
Sir Keir later told the PA news agency in Dubai, where he is attending the Cop28 climate summit, that Mr Darling’s death had brought “real shock and profound sadness” across the labour movement.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Alistair Darling’s passing is a huge loss to us all.
“He was a dedicated public servant who served this country though challenging times.”
He said Mr Darling was “vital in keeping our union together” during the 2014 referendum.
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who led the campaign for independence in the 2014 referendum, described Mr Darling as a “hugely significant figure in UK politics” and an “effective politician”.
The two men clashed in TV debates ahead of the vote, and Mr Salmond described Mr Darling as a “formidable opponent” – but said outside of those debates, they did “not ever exchange a cross word”.
Mr Salmond added: “Alistair was an extremely courteous man.”
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said Mr Darling had “dedicated his life to public service, and was a giant of Scottish and UK politics”.
He added: “I disagreed with Alistair on big political issues, but what is much more important is the courteous and respectful manner with which he conducted himself throughout his political career. He will be hugely missed from our public life.”
I am deeply saddened to hear of Alistair's passing. He dedicated his life to public service and was a giant of Scottish politics.
My thoughts with his wife Margaret, children, family, friends and colleagues at this sad time. https://t.co/xd0NjLnNWb
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) November 30, 2023
Sir Tony Blair described the veteran politician as having been a “rarity in politics”, adding he “never met anyone who didn’t like him”.
He added: “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.”
Lord Mandelson, another key figure in New Labour, said: “This is a terrible loss for Alistair’s family and for all of us who knew him as such a wonderful colleague.
“His inner strength and streak of independent judgment saw the economy through the financial crisis in 2008.”
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, who was Tory leader while Mr Darling dealt with the global financial crisis, remembered the then chancellor as a “thoroughly kind and decent man”.
He said Mr Darling led the Better Together campaign – which came when Lord Cameron was prime minister – “with great distinction and tenacity, securing Scotland’s place in our union”.
Other former Conservative prime ministers joined in the tributes, with Boris Johnson saying Mr Darling was a “towering figure in Labour politics” who “always brought wit, wisdom and intellect to his work”.
Theresa May said he was a “committed public servant, a proud unionist and a calm, kind and decent man”.
Sir John Major said: “Alistair was a decent man who brought civility, reason and intelligence to politics.”
Jeremy Hunt, the current occupant of 11 Downing Street, described Mr Darling as being “one of the great chancellors”.
He added: “He’ll be remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil.”
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey praised Mr Darling as a “dedicated public servant” who he worked closely with during the financial crisis.
He added: “He steered the British economy ably during a time of great uncertainty.
“My sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”