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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform