Tributes as Alistair Darling to quit as MP

COLLEAGUES today paid tribute to former Chancellor Alistair Darling following his announcement he will quit the Commons at next year’s general election.
Alistair Darling is to step down. Picture: Ian GeorgesonAlistair Darling is to step down. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alistair Darling is to step down. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Mr Darling said he would not stand for re-election in his Edinburgh South-West seat.

He told the Evening News: “I’ve been an MP for 27 years, many of them on the frontbench, I was Chancellor during the economic crisis and I’ve just fought a gruelling referendum campaign. Now it’s time to move on.”

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Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Darling was a man of “values, decency and kindness” who had distinguished himself as an “extraordinary public servant”.

Shadow Scottish SecretaryMargaret Curran praised his role in leading the Better Together campaign against independence. “Many would have opted for a quiet life. Alistair Darling’s legacy will be stepping up and winning the argument for solidarity across the UK.”

Former Cabinet colleague David Miliband described Mr Darling as “a gentle giant of politics: high on integrity, low on ego”. Mr Darling, 60, was a Labour member of Lothian Regional Council before being elected as MP for Edinburgh Central in 1987. He switched to the new constituency of Edinburgh South-West in 2005 after Central disappeared in boundary changes.

He was in the Cabinet throughout Labour’s 13 years in power under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He chose to return to the backbenches after Labour lost the 2010 general election, but returned to the front line to lead the cross-party Better Together campaign during the independence referendum.

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He said: “It has been a huge privilege to represent an Edinburgh constituency for the past 27 years - first Edinburgh Central and then Edinburgh South-West.

“I have been fortunate there has never been a day when I didn’t want to go to work – even during the crisis, especially when the crisis was so relevant to Edinburgh with RBS and HBOS.

“I’m sorry to go, but it’s better to go when you’re still enjoying it rather than hanging on too long.

“I hope I’ve got many years in front of me, but I want to go and do something different.”

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He said he had no plans at the moment. “For the last two and a half years I’ve only thought about one subject.

“I was very pleased we won the referendum and won it decisively.

“I was particularly pleased that the Edinburgh result was so decisive.”

Mr Darling also announced he was backing former Cabinet colleague Jim Murphy in the contest for the Scottish Labour leadership and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale for the deputy post.

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He said: “Labour has got to make a fresh start, as Jim has said, and I’m right behind the changes he wants to make.

“Kez is extremely capable and enthusiastic, but most importantly she is the best communicator in Scottish politics. She comes across well and will be a massive asset for us.”