Alistair Darling cause of death: What was former Labour chancellor suffering from?

Alistair Darling (Image via X / Alarmy)
Alistair Darling (Image via X / Alamy)

Alistair Darling, the former Labour MP and Chancellor during the 2008 financial crisis, passed away on November 30, 2023, at the age of 70 while undergoing treatment for cancer. Survived by his wife Margaret McQueen Vaughan and their children, Calum and Anna, Alistair Darling's political journey was distinguished by significant contributions, as highlighted by his family on Thursday.

“Darling, the much-loved husband of Margaret and beloved father of Calum and Anna, died in Edinburgh this morning after a short spell in Western General Hospital under the wonderful care of the cancer team,” his spokeswoman said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer led tributes to the giant of British politics. Alistair Darling presided over the rescue of the UK’s banking sector during 2008's global financial crisis.


Sir Keir mourned the “immeasurable loss” of the Labour grandee, who also successfully spearheaded the 2014 campaign for the unionist side which saw Scotland remain part of the UK. Former Labour PM Gordon Brown said his colleague would be remembered as “a statesman of unimpeachable integrity” and that he relied on the “wisdom and calmness” of his old ally.

Who was Alistair Darling?

The son of Thomas Darling, a civil engineer, and Anna MacLean, Alistair Darling was born in London. He was the great-nephew of Sir William Darling, the former Conservative/Unionist Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South (1945–1957). He reportedly had his education at the private Loretto School in Musselburgh, Kirkcaldy, and Chinthurst School in Tadworth, Surrey.

Later, he studied at the University of Aberdeen and received his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from there. He was reportedly elected president of the Students' Representative Council at Aberdeen University. At 23, Darling became a member of the Labour Party; nevertheless, he did not become a member of Parliament until ten years later, in 1987, when he defeated Tory MP Sir Alexander Fletcher in the general election. In 1986, he married a journalist, Margaret Vaughan, and they had two children, Calum and Anna.

Alistair Darling and his wife (Image via X / Alamy)
Alistair Darling and his wife (Image via X / Alamy)

He began his tenure as chief secretary to the Treasury in 1997, following Labour's resounding victory, and played a pivotal role in Tony Blair's administration. In addition, the MP oversaw other ministries, including as trade, employment and pensions, and transportation. When he was named chancellor of fellow Scot Gordon Brown's cabinet in 2007, he shot to fame.

Rishi Sunak calls for cabinet reshuffle (Image via Politics Home)
Rishi Sunak calls for cabinet reshuffle (Image via Politics Home)

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 infuriated Brown, who felt the comments had damaged the economy, but a month later, Darling was proven right when the collapse of Lehman Brothers — the biggest bankruptcy in history — caused global credit markets to seize up.

Darling said the scariest moment of the crisis came during a phone call in October 2008 with the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland, then one of the biggest lenders in the world, who said his bank was within hours of running out of money.


In response, Darling told his officials, lawyers and bank executives to work through the night to find a solution before the financial markets opened the next day and ordered curries from his local Indian restaurant to feed everyone.

The following morning, the British government announced plans to nationalize large sections of the banking sector. Alistair Darling said in 2018 that, if he had not ordered the bailout, Britain could have been within hours of the breakdown of law and order because cash machines would have stopped working.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, left, adjusts Alistair Darling’s collar (Image via X / Chris Clarke)
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, left, adjusts Alistair Darling’s collar (Image via X / Chris Clarke)

In a sign of the broad respect commanded by Darling across the political spectrum, six years later, he chaired the cross-party Better Together group, which led the successful campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom in the 2014 referendum.

Darling and his wife with the cross-party Better Together group (Image via Sky News)
Darling and his wife with the cross-party Better Together group (Image via Sky News)

After leading the nation through the global financial crisis, Alistair Darling remained in office until Brown lost the 2010 election. 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 and headed various ministries before being put in charge of the finance ministry by Brown.

Up until his resignation in 2022, he stayed an MP.

On November 30, 2023, at the age of 70, Alistair Darling, the influential British politician, passed away due to cancer. His demise marked the conclusion of a lifetime committed to public service. He is being deeply mourned by his family and an entire nation. Just two days after his birthday celebration, he departed, although specific details regarding the type of cancer he battled remained undisclosed publicly.


Despite his illness, Darling remained dedicated to public service, notably contributing to addressing economic adversities during the financial crisis of 2007–2008. When he left the House of Commons in 2015, he was made a peer, but eventually retired from the House of Lords in 2020. Britain's present prime minister Rishi Sunak, from the centre-right Conservative party grieved:

"Alistair Darling's passing is a huge loss to us all. He was a dedicated public servant who served this country though challenging times."

Sir Keir said he was “deeply saddened” by his death. The Labour leader said Alistair Darling would be remembered as “the chancellor whose calm expertise and honesty helped to guide Britain through the tumult of the global financial crisis."

Twitter mourns the loss of the Ex-Labour Chancellor

People also spammed hastags on #belikeAlistair.

The Labour Party Leaders tweeted:

His last hours were spent in the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. His passing brings to an end a life dedicated to helping people.

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