Alistair Darling’s ex-right hand man bids for seat

Angus Armstrong. Picture: comp
Angus Armstrong. Picture: comp
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A FORMER Treasury civil servant who was one of Alistair Darling’s right-hand men tackling the banking crisis is bidding to succeed the former Chancellor as MP for Edinburgh South-West.

Angus Armstrong, 51, has thrown his hat in the ring to become Labour candidate in the seat at next year’s general election. Mr Darling announced last month he was standing down after 27 years in the Commons.

So far the leading contenders for the seat are councillors Ricky Henderson and Norma Austin Hart and equality council chairman Foysol Choudhury.

A senior party source said Mr Armstrong had “an astonishing CV” and was “exactly the calibre of candidate Labour should be fielding”.

Mr Armstrong began his career in Edinburgh, working for stockbrokers Bell Lawrie MacGregor in the 1980s, and eventually became a managing director of Deutsche Bank in Asia, working in Hong Kong and Singapore.

But seeing the human cost when the economy went into crisis made him stop and think.

He said: “The thing that was so striking was how places could go from being miracle countries to economies contracting by double-digit rates and the social impact it had on the poorest people who just have rice. The price of rice went so high that some just starved.

“To see a financial system fall over and cause that much social loss, that changed my career. I wanted to understand how to make financial systems work better for people. I left and went to Harvard to study.”

Three years later, in 2003, he returned to the UK and went to work for the Treasury. When the banking crisis hit, he led the work on “stress tests” for the banks and worked with Mr Darling on big rescues.

Now head of macroeconomics at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, he says his top concern is financial markets and making them work for people.

He said Edinburgh’s financial sector had a strong future. “It is 100 per cent viable and there are a lot of reasons to think Edinburgh has very real advantages over London. The culture in Edinburgh is fundamentally different from the culture in the City of London.

“The activities Scottish firms excel at – securities, fund management and insurance – are not the high-risk businesses that caused the crisis.

“One of the attractions of this seat is the importance of the financial community to the constituency. Financial services and education are the two most important drivers in the Edinburgh economy and they have to work together.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com