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Darling was better at his job, and a better man, than any of today's lot

Alistair Darling served as chancellor under Gordon Brown (Ian Nicholson/PA) (PA Archive)
Alistair Darling served as chancellor under Gordon Brown (Ian Nicholson/PA) (PA Archive)

Four significant deaths in the last few days – forgive me if I have overlooked one that meant a lot to you personally.

Henry Kissinger went not a moment too soon at 100.

Warren Buffett’s side-kick Charlie Munger at a well-deserved 99 – testament to a life well lived.

Alistair Darling at a harsh 70. And Shane MacGowan at 65, a tribute to how much punishment some human bodies can withstand.

What if they had done job swaps?

Well, Munger could have been in charge of a nation’s finances anywhere and made the situation better.

Darling would surely have done well working calmly for Warren Buffett.

Shane MacGowan was probably in the right job. Then again, if he’d been in charge of US foreign policy instead of Henry Kissinger somewhere between three and four million humans might still be alive.

Perhaps Kissinger could have played tambourine for an Irish folk band and caused a lot less trouble along the way.

The most common compliment paid to Darling today is that he was a “safe pair of hands”, as if he oversaw a period of calm as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

While transport secretary, Trucking magazine voted him “most boring politician” two years running.

What Darling actually did was to make it seem that total chaos – the collapse of the entire financial system – was under control.

He affected not to be worried, which made everyone feel better.

Modern politicians are more like Shane MacGowan. Quite entertaining to look at, but not really qualified for their roles.

In the summer of 2008, Darling described the world’s economic prospects as “arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years”.

His PM, Gordon Brown, didn’t care for such straight forwardness, but by telling the truth Darling helped put policies in place that avoided the worst outcomes.

If you can stand watching the Covid inquiries, it is clear that Matt Hancock and the other crop of recent politicians preferred to insist that everything was mostly ok, as if saying that would make it so.

Darling was better at his job, a better man, than all of them.