Ex-Chancellor joins Election campaign
Darling urges patience over selling RBS stake
Former Chancellor Alistair Darling today urged an incoming government to be patient about selling the taxpayers’ stake in Royal Bank of Scotland.
Lord Darling bailed out the bank in 2008 as it faced collapse, injecting £45 billion to ensure it survived.
The shares have languished at half the price at which the then Labour government bought in and the latest incumbent at 11 Downing St, Philip Hammond, has indicated that the Tories might sell the 73% stake at a loss.
Lord Darling urged the incoming Chancellor to wait until a number of outstanding issues were resolved before taking a decision. These include legal claims in the US and talks with the European Commission over the sale of branches that were meant to be sold as a new bank under the Williams & Glyn brand.
“The core bank is beginning to recover. I always said it would take a long time and the government has to be patient. I would wait until there is a settlement in the US and Williams & Glyn is resolved,” he said.
Lord Darling joined the General Election campaign in support of Edinburgh South candidate Ian Murray, Labour’s sole representative in Scotland in the last parliament.
Without naming the SNP he attacked those who want to take a “narrow view” of where they want the country to be.
“We can’t let this election be hijacked by a group of extreme people with a bleak, narrow view of our country’s future,” he said.
He ruled himself out of leading a second Better Together campaign in the event of a second referendum being called.
“It is for another generation. I have stepped back from front line politics,” he said.
Regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, he offered a barely ringing endorsement by saying it was for him to “convince the voters to vote for him in the next six weeks”.
On Tony Blair’s decision to return to more active politics, he said that the former Labour Prime Minister, who was first elected 20 years ago today, “would provide a sensible voice” in determining Britain’s relationship with Europe.
Darling: ‘Remember what Labour achieved’
Lord Darling earlier urged voters to remember the party’s achievements in government.
Marking 20 years since Labour’s 1997 election victory he and Mr Murray were in a cafe in Bruntsfield to meet a group of young people who were born that year.
In a statement earlier, he highlighted Labour’s record of lifting 120,000 children out of poverty in Scotland, introducing the National Minimum Wage and tax credits for those on low pay.
He pointed to the introduction of civil partnerships and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
Lord Darling urged the SNP to “get on with the day job” and drop its campaign for splitting up the UK.
He said that when a government focuses on the day job “it can transform the lives of people in Scotland.”
His support for the campaign coincided with opinion polls showing Labour trailing the Conservatives in Scotland.
“Twenty years ago today a Labour government that transformed the lives of people in Scotland and right across the UK was elected,” he said.
“We delivered on our promises, by lifting millions of families out of poverty, investing in schools and hospitals, and introducing a National Minimum Wage.
“Labour’s proud record shows what can be achieved when a government focuses on the day job. The priority of a Labour government is always to grow the economy, create jobs, lift people out of poverty and give everybody a fair chance in life, not seeking to divide the country.
“On 8 June people can vote Labour to send Nicola Sturgeon a message that Scotland doesn’t want or need another divisive referendum.
“In 2014 we were told that the referendum was a once in a generation event, and Scotland voted No by a clear margin. That’s the mandate the Nationalists must respect.
“Scotland is divided enough. The majority of people in Scotland believe that together we’re stronger by remaining in the UK.”
Mr Murray added: “Only Labour can defeat the SNP in Edinburgh South. The Tories came a distant third in 2015, so the only way to send Nicola Sturgeon a message that she should scrap her plan for another divisive referendum is to vote Labour.
“The thirteen years of Labour government transformed the lives of people from ordinary backgrounds like me.
“We invested in schools and hospitals, delivered a boost to low-paid workers, and gave our young people a fair chance in life. That’s what our government should be focused on, not trying to force another divisive referendum that most Scots don’t want.”
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