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118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Political Biography: Whatever Next?
Were you to have asked me, prior to reading this book, who was my favourite political biography, I would have replied, Chris Mullin. The reason for that choice was based upon the fact that here was a man who could laugh at himself, as well as others. Mullin has no pomposity and the same can be said of Alistair Darling. The advantage which Darling holds over Mullin is...
Published on 20 Sep 2011 by K. Petersen

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable if dry memoir of a tumultous period
Alistair Darling's misfortune was to be in the Chancellor's seat when the music stopped. He recounts his time at No 11, at the helm of Britain's finances, clearly and with a certain dry humour, but omits any details which would have added life to the account. In particular, although he talks darkly about his well-publicised falling-out with prime minister Gordon Brown, he...
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by Tim Frost


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118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Political Biography: Whatever Next?, 20 Sep 2011
By 
K. Petersen "Ken" (Hemsby,UK) - See all my reviews
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Were you to have asked me, prior to reading this book, who was my favourite political biography, I would have replied, Chris Mullin. The reason for that choice was based upon the fact that here was a man who could laugh at himself, as well as others. Mullin has no pomposity and the same can be said of Alistair Darling. The advantage which Darling holds over Mullin is that he held a senior government position (Chancellor of the Exchequer) during a significant historical era (the financial crash of 2008).

It is refreshing to read a political biography in which the main character was not the only person who realised, the exact situation, from day one, and how it should be handled. Alistair Darling is generous with his praise and quick to acknowledge the input of his colleagues, even when they are not bosom buddies.

Reading this book made me realise just how serious the banking crisis had been. One of the great problems with life today, when news is to hand twenty-four hours a day, is that a news programme needs sensation. Everything becomes the most serious crisis that man has ever faced and, naturally, the listener becomes blasé. Darling's book is written in a much more modest style and so, when he paints a picture of near collapse, it is so much more chilling. The section dealing with the banks is more gripping than any financial thriller that one may have read. Darling is honest enough to admit that nobody, himself included, really knew how to deal with events and leads us through the path that he, and Gordon Brown, took to reaching an effective course of action.

Darling is also of great interest when dealing with the Labour Party leadership. He served at close quarters with both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He does not make one into a saint, and the other into a sinner, as so many of these biographies have. His account of the Brown government is particularly valuable. Gordon Brown is something of an enigma: he is obviously intelligent, clearly not strong upon personal relationships and he undoubtedly had some bad luck. Darling adds to this by showing a certain level of paranoia. Brown seems to have genuinely believed that the Treasury was trying to bring down his premiership: were I to be a psychologist, I might suggest that this was a guilt complex brought about by his clear attempts to topple Tony Blair from this branch of government. But, I am not, and so I wont!

This book was one of the lower key releases subsequent to the demise of the Labour Government. I believe that, in the long term, it will be considered one of the most significant. Anybody interested in the World financial situation, or the British Labour Party, will find this book demands a place of pride upon their bookshelf.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from someone on the inside, 8 Sep 2011
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This is a view of the financial meltdown from a man right at the very heart of it. There are good books that pull together facts from interviews and other sources (I recommend Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street thoroughly), but this view from someone on the inside was what compelled me to read.

Much has been in the media of the relationship with Gordon Brown, and the criticisms Darling has for his boss, but the book contains much more than that. Darling is both frustrated and filled with contempt when the bankers can't quite grasp the situation they are in and the lengths the Government have to go try and clean up their mess. He is lucid about the stress of the situation that he is put under, from the lack of sleep to the strains of dealing with the media and his own people. And yes, he is candid about Gordon Brown's leadership - particularly about the strain of the "election that never was".

Don't get me wrong - I don't particularly like the way this has come out. Couldn't he have said something at the time? Done something different? Had more backbone? I don't know. Suffice to repeat my old Grandad's phrase - "you make your bed, you lie in it". Despite that, I found it to be a good read - I'm not usually into books from politicians but the writing style is good and it flows well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An open and frank account, 30 Oct 2011
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Alistair Darling provides a straightforward and readable digest of his time at number 11 in which he bares all about his experience of working with a difficult, indecisive and paranoid Gordon Brown. Darling comes across as a sober, if sometimes dull, politician whose heart appears to be in the right place and who is keen to do the right thing not just for his party but for people in general. He sets the record staight too about the inheritance he left behind and how Labour have failed to portray how well they dealt with the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. A damn good read with much less of the hubris in evidence that you usually have to put up with from political memoirs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, 5 Oct 2011
I've always voted Conservative and have a very low opinion of Labour politicians in general,but must admit to always having regarded Alistair Darling as a thoughtful and conscientious man. His book reinforces that opinion. The period of time this book covers will be talked about by historians for years to come. This book gives a fascinating insight into what went on during this time from a unique insider's view. It is very well written. Technical issues and concepts (eg. moral hazard) are explained for the layman yet without ever appearing to talk down to the reader. The details regarding Gordon Brown's behaviour are a bonus - highlighting how disfunctional that government was and how unsuitable GB was for the top job. Darling emerges with dignity and kudos from these most difficult circumstances.
Maybe a four and a half stars rating is deserved for this book - I can't bring myself to give five stars to any Labour politician when virtually all his collegues deserve a very long spell in opposition!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable account of Darling's time in office., 11 Jan 2012
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It is certainly part of the motivation for buying this book to get a view from the inside of dealing with the then prime minister Gordon Brown. Darling has taken advantage of this and uses the opportunity to tell us about various events and how he dealt with them.
One gets the impression that he was driven mostly by what his civil servants told him he had to do. His part was to find a meeting point between what his advisors told him and what Brown wanted. This was the root of the tension between the two men: Darling wanted to run his department efficiently according to his own values, while Brown was desperately trying to find something to boost his popularity. This created a leadership vacuum which was filled by the civil service - but leadership is not what they are there to do.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read..., 16 Nov 2011
By 
M. Pritchard "SUNSPY" (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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Really enjoyed this book. A few days of holiday reading and it kept me gripped thru til the end, what it did tell me was that Darling was a grafter, he glued the Labour financial programme together in the last few years of the administration and importantly, helped the UK thru some very trying times. A lot of respect for this man, who comes across as a genuine and honourable man.

Well recommended if you want to learn more about economics and politics...
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alistair Darling - "Revenge is a dish best served cold", 11 Sep 2011
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Red on Black - See all my reviews
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It was obvious at the time and now we have the copious personal reflections of former Chancellor Alastair Darling in his very readable memoir "Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11" confirming that Gordon Brown supported him in the same way that a rope supports a hanging man. Darling was a mainstay of all the new Labour cabinets from 1997 and yet would never be viewed by the Stalinist apparatchiks around Brown such as Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan and Damien McBride as "on message". Indeed the brooding Prime Minister wanted Balls to have his job despite the fact that in the wider Labour Party, Browns protege was about as popular as a rat sandwich. As it stands the resignation of James Purnell and the "Coup that never happened" during the summer of 2009 against Brown effectively saved Darlings place in Number 11 and led the Prime Minister in a typically grudging lack of enthusiasm to tell Darling "Ok you can stay".

Quite why Darling wanted to stay is a mystery. The constant interference by Balls and Brown was one thing but the great economic forces were signalling the darkest clouds as the world economy collapsed around Lehman Bothers and on Darling's "watch". The British Economy was hit by a succession of crisis starting with Northern Rock in 2007, the bailouts of irresponsible bankers, a deep recession and yet four years later still seems more fragile than ever. We learn that Darling was key in ensuring that the Barclays bail out of Lehman's didn't happen not least with the fears that even more bad debt contagion be brought into our system. We also learn Darling intense frustrations with the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King who he describes as `amazingly stubborn and exasperating". Think back on King's record not least his sycophantic praise of Gordon Brown prior to 2005 and the failure of both the Bank of England and the Treasury to restrain a kamikaze housing boom supported by sub prime lending and you marvel at his remarkable powers of survival. He followed this with hawkish refusals on lowering interest rates when leading economists like Danny Blanchflower were accurately warning of the carnage to come and has now become the cheerleader for the Coalitions' cuts programme.

To be fair to Darling he had honestly warned in August 2008 that the UK faced its worse economic crisis in 60 years. Imagine the boiling resentment this caused at Number 10 where Brown was still rehearsing his "crisis what crisis" line and refusing to even contemplate reigning back on spending. As Darling states "My fairly accurate prediction of what was to come economically might have been long forgotten but for the inept briefing machine at No 10". With he classic verbal "two fingered salute" Darling goes on to state "For that I owe them thanks, which is something I am sure they never anticipated." Ultimately Alistair Darling comes over in this memoir as decent and honorable man. BUT (and it is a very large "but") when it really mattered he was also a rather timid politician who was never really prepared to join the forces wishing to oust Brown despite the fact that he found the approach of fellow Scot to government as one which led to a "permanent air of chaos and crisis". Darlings book is not a huge memoir and for those with an interest in politics it is a good read, it also sharply contrasts with his successor Ed Balls who finds it almost impossible to tell any truth whatsoever about this same period. As such "Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11" is a very nice corrective.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable if dry memoir of a tumultous period, 15 Feb 2012
By 
Tim Frost "Tim" (UK (Norfolk) and Grenada (West Indies)) - See all my reviews
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Alistair Darling's misfortune was to be in the Chancellor's seat when the music stopped. He recounts his time at No 11, at the helm of Britain's finances, clearly and with a certain dry humour, but omits any details which would have added life to the account. In particular, although he talks darkly about his well-publicised falling-out with prime minister Gordon Brown, he does not bring the feud to life by detailing any confrontation.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative study of the banking crisis, 12 Sep 2011
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Misled by pre publication hype, I rather expected to get several hundred pages of Brown bashing! Certainly Darling paints an unflattering picture of the former Prime Minister, the temper, outbursts and inability to act as a team player we knew about, but Darling tells us more.'It was obvious to me even at this early stage in his premiership that there was no sign of clarity or direction' Damning words indeed and Darling goes on 'It was all about tactics rather than strategy.'
The book is a careful and detailed analysis of the banking crisis in Britain from the near fatal collapse of Northern Rock and RBS. Musing wryly, as he prepares to pour public money into this ailing bank, Darling comments that some of his Labour predecessors would have loved doing this to a bank. We are told all the details of this terrible crisis which led us to a breath away from finding all cash points closed down. Darling takes us up to, but does not dwell on, the election of 2010. He claims that Labour lost'because the public did not believe that we dealt with the economic crisis as well as we should have done.' You like me, may believe there was more to it than that.
The book is not as gossipy as Mandelson's nor as adolescent and celebrity/media obsessed as Campbell's and so in some sense it is not such a good read. I am not any kind of economic expert, but the prose was clear enough for me to follow what went on in these turbulent times. It is a valuable addition to the chronicles of New Labour
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but not earth shattering, 13 Sep 2011
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gerryg - See all my reviews
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Perhap like others, I was drawn in by the pre-publication publicity that that we might get a bit of a political block buster. Having read it in one go (illustrating that at least it is well written) it is more about the banking crisis than politiics, though politics is interspersed and the last chapter of the book is all about politics.

We knew that he had fallen out with Gordon Brown (of whom we learn little more than others have said already, albeit this being a bit more personal). Overall this book appears to be an attempt to preserve the record of the final Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last administration in the face of what seemed like an all-or-nothing gamblers approach to the country's finances in order to win the 2010 election and the personal efforts he deployed in his attempts to dissuade those that were bettnig everything on "Red". However even if he had fallen out the sub-text of the book is that of a committed Labour Party poltician and he considers that the other parties are lesser creatures.

At the time Alistair Darling came across as a decent sort of guy, and to some extent this book confirms this impression. Some of the asides revealed a man whose head had not been turned by the trappings of power and (unusual for a politician) seemed more concerned for the fortunes of the country though obviously based on a left-of-centre analysis, than his personal position.

Never mind Gordon Brown, and while he's not a fan of George Osborne either - the politician who got many mentions and never flatteringly is Vince Cable.
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Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11
Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11 by Alistair Darling (Paperback - 1 April 2012)
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