Darling: I rejected chance to join Miliband's team
Former Chancellor sheds light on present – and past at the Woodstock Literary Festival
Rob Sharp is arts correspondent of The Independent and i newspapers. He has worked for The Independent since July 2007, reporting to both the news and features editors. He has previously supplied regular arts stories to The Observer, occasionally The Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian, and even more occasionally The New Statesman and The Art Newspaper. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a former British Press Award nominee.
Saturday 17 September 2011
The former chancellor Alistair Darling rebuffed an approach by Labour leader Ed Miliband to join the Shadow Cabinet, telling him he was "worn out". He also hinted that he may decide to leave politics for good next year.
Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival yesterday about his memoir, Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11, Mr Darling said he was relishing his time away from front-line politics and would decide "next year" whether to change career or compete for his Edinburgh South West constituency.
"He asked me was I going to come back, and I told him I was worn out. I said 'I am going to go to the back-benches'," said Mr Darling of the approach from the Labour leader. "I didn't want to be in a position where I am on the Today programme."
Darling's appearance was one of the highlights of the festival, held in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Forthcoming events include Richard Dawkins discussing his new "introduction to science" book, The Magic of Reality, and former cricketer Imran Khan, who tomorrow will be grilled by his ex-wife, Jemima about Pakistan: A Personal History, an autobiography and history of his homeland.
Mr Darling said he has had no contact with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown since before the book was published, earlier this month. His memoir is heavily critical of Mr Brown, with whom he fell out over an August 2008 interview in which the then Chancellor warned of the depth of the country's economic woes.
Following speculation over the book's authorship – Mr Darling's wife is former Glasgow Herald journalist Margaret Vaughan – the politician's media adviser, former political journalist Catherine MacLeod, told The Independent that she had helped type up sections of notes for the book.
She said Mr Darling did not take a diary so ministerial documents which related to Mr Darling's time in power were used for research purposes. However Mr Darling insisted the work was "mine and mine alone".
Of a potential move away from politics he said: "I am a Member of Parliament for the rest of this Parliament. Like anyone else I will decide what I am going to do next year, whether to continue to do what I'm doing or something different.I'm in no hurry."
Elsewhere at the festival, writer and broadcaster Hugo Vickers, an historical adviser for The King's Speech, revealed he had an unpleasant experience when providing advice to Madonna for W.E., the film she recently directed about the romance between Wallace Simpson and Edward VIII. "I saw the cast read through and then gave them a presentation about their characters," he said. "But she's not an easy person. She had her own ideas. I have reservations about the storyline." Asked whether he would consider working with her again, he replied simply: "No."
The New Labour book club: Dishing the dirt on the Blair years
The Spin Doctor's Diary (2005)
Price was Alastair Campbell's deputy between 1998 and 2000 and went to print while Tony Blair was still in office. Not close enough to the action to do any real damage, Price did at least lift the lid on a chaotic Cabinet with three big beasts: Blair, Brown and Mandelson.
Revelation rating: 2/5; Spite factor: 3/5
The Blair Years(June 2007)
First released in abridged form as "The Blair Years", only two months after the former PM departed. Revelations about private conversations – including President Bush promising to "kiss Campbell's ass" if Parliament voted for war – paint a sorry picture of spin.
Revelation rating: 4/5; Spite factor: 3/5
The Third Man (July 2010)
Contained as much cloak-and-dagger activity as the Orson Welles film it was named for. Provided further fuel for historians of the Blair-Brown feud. Mandelson recalls asking Blair who in the party was really New Labour: "Me. You. And that's about it," Blair replied.
Revelation rating: 3/5; Spite factor: 5/5
A Journey (September 2010)
Sprawling memoir that changed few opinions, but contained a catalogue of fascinating anecdotes and set-pieces both comic and tragic; from Blair's terror that the Queen would be crushed by an acrobat in the Millennium Dome, to the confession that he had cried over soldiers killed in Iraq.
Revelation rating: 4/5 Spite factor: 3/5
Back From The Brink (September 2011)
Darling's memoir paints a grim picture of warfare between 10 and 11 Downing St. At the height of the financial crisis, Brown thought the recession would be over in six months, and wanted to oust Darling to make room for Ed Balls. Brown is accused of running "a fairly brutal regime".
Revelation rating: 5/5 Spite factor: 2/5
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