So arrogant and stupid they might bring us all down: Darling's verdict on Britain's bankers


Alistair Darling feared the bank chiefs at the heart of the financial crisis were "so arrogant and stupid that they might bring us all down".

In his memoirs, the former Chancellor delivers a damning verdict on the leadership skills of the most senior figures in the High Street banks that had to be bailed out at the cost to the taxpayer of £50 billion.

According to a leak from his forthcoming book published by the Labour Uncut website yesterday, he is withering about the attitude displayed by Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to the emergency. Mr Darling complains that Sir Fred behaved as if he was "off to play a game of golf" rather than confronting the threat of a collapse in the banking sector. He even says that "Goodwin deserved to be a pariah" when he later refused to reduce his pension payments after being forced to resign.

Mr Darling accuses Andy Hornby, the former chief executive of HBOS, of "looking like he was about to explode" when confronted with the gravity of the crisis that had developed under his leadership. Mr Darling writes: "My worry was that they [the bankers] were so arrogant and stupid that they might bring us all down."

He also protests that bank chiefs uniformly showed a shocking ingratitude for the massive rescue package that kept their businesses afloat.

Mr Darling blames Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, and Adair Turner, the head of the Financial Services Authority, for their part in failing to avert the crisis. Earlier this year Mr Darling disclosed that people were only two hours away from being unable to withdraw money from British banks during the crisis in October 2008.

He said the near-collapse of RBS would have spread quickly to other banks if the government had not rushed out an emergency rescue package. "We were at the stage where in a very short period of time, one of the world's biggest banks would have to shut the door and switch off the electricity," he told The Independent. His portrayal of Gordon Brown's premiership in his book, Back from the Brink: 1000 days at No 11, which is published next week, has caused a headache for the current Labour leadership.

According to Labour Uncut, he claims that Mr Brown's closest lieutenant, Ed Balls, ran a parallel Treasury operation within Whitehall while Mr Darling was Chancellor.

Yesterday attempts by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, to focus on the state of the economy were disrupted by Mr Darling's claims. Asked about the alleged activities of Mr Balls, now the shadow Chancellor, during the last Labour government, Mr Miliband replied: "I certainly didn't see that." He told Sky News: "Alistair's got a perfect right to write his memoirs and talk about his reflections on his time in office, and I'm sure they will be interesting for people. But the important thing for me to do, which I'm going to do, is talk about the needs of the economy going forward."

Mr Balls said he had opposed Mr Brown's plan – confirmed by the memoirs – to sack Mr Darling as Chancellor and put him in the job. "I thought that was the wrong plan. I thought changing the Chancellor in 2009 was the wrong decision. I wanted to stay in the department as Secretary of State for children, schools and families – but that is history," Mr Balls said.

So, who leaked Darling's book?

A question intriguing Westminster yesterday is who leaked the Alistair Darling memoirs, and why? The culprit certainly did not do it for money, or they would have leaked to a wealthier outlet than the Labour Uncut website.

There are substantial sums involved. The publishers, Atlantic Books, agreed to pay Mr Darling an advance of £75,000, obviously expecting they would get their money back by selling rights to The Sunday Times, which was due to begin serialisation this weekend. But the mighty Murdoch empire has been scooped by a penniless website.

The Sunday Times must be considering whether to cancel its contract with Atlantic Books, or beat the price down. This has happened to other deals when a confidentiality agreement has been breached. Either the newspaper or the publisher and author, or all three, are worse off because of a leak.

The conspiracy theory is that the mystery leaker is one of Darling's enemies, who wanted to blunt the impact of his memoirs. But how could someone ill-disposed towards the ex-Chancellor have got hold of a copy of his memoirs? What seems more likely is that someone involved was careless, or could not resist the temptation to share the secret.

Andy McSmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower