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Ex-UK Chancellor Darling, who fought financial crisis, dies

file photo: britain's chancellor of the exchequer alistair darling holds gladstone's old budget box for the cameras outside 11 downing street
Alistair Darling pictured in 2010 in London

Former British Chancellor Alistair Darling, who steered the country’s economy and banking system through the shock of the global financial crisis in 2007-08, has died aged 70 after undergoing treatment for cancer, his family said on Thursday.

Darling was appointed chancellor of the exchequer by former prime minister Gordon Brown in June 2007, just as the crisis was brewing at some of the world’s biggest financial institutions.

He oversaw the rescue of British lender Northern Rock a few months into the job. In October 2008, he played a key role in a 37 billion-pound ($47 billion) government bailout of Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS to help them survive the credit crunch.

Darling was a member of parliament representing the centre-left Labour Party between 1987 and 2015 and he served as chief secretary to the Treasury before being promoted to run the finance ministry by Brown.

“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,” his family said in a statement.

Born in 1953, Darling attended the private Loretto School on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland’s oldest boarding school, before studying law at Aberdeen University. He worked as a lawyer in Edinburgh before becoming a barrister in 1984.

Labour leader Keir Starmer led the tributes.

“He will be remembered as the Chancellor whose calm expertise and honesty helped to guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis,” Starmer said in a statement.

Darling hit the headlines in August 2008, before the scale of the financial crisis was clear, when he was quoted by The Guardian newspaper as saying that the economic challenges “are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years … and I think it’s going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought.”

The interview reportedly infuriated Brown who was wondering whether to call an election which in the end he called in 2010.

Brown said he was deeply saddened by the death. “I, like many relied on his wisdom, calmness in a crisis and his humour,” he said.

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