Write a product review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Alistair Darling was UK's Chancellor during the financial global financial crisis. He did not predict that he would end up in the eye of the storm. The economy was on the brink of collapse, and it was his job to save the day. Darling explains the causes of the economic meltdown and how he handled the crisis.
The book also contains juicy details of his strained relationship with Gordon Brown. Back From The Brink is engrossing page-turner. It remains one of the most important books on the British economy during the deep recession of Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Unfortunately, the book seems less about the GFC and more about the politics and performance of the then ruling Labour party. Fair enough, but I guess I was expecting something more along the lines of these other books.
Back from the Brink: 1, Days at Number 11 by Alistair Darling: review - Telegraph
Reading this book is a frustrating experience, too, as he chops and changes all the time. He'll start describing how he was dealing with a bank crisis, then suddenly switch to backgrounding some internal debate within the Labour party happening at the same time, and then when he comes back to saving the bank - voila! The two books mentioned above were much more clearly laid out, with chapters and sections being chronological and staying on topic - if only 'Back from the Brink' were the same This was a great opportunity wasted.
It read more like "What Alistair did next". Rather than reflecting on the positions of the major players, how policy was reached, how decisions were enacted, etc. Very disappointing, especially for a player at the heart of a major global crisis. Of all the autobiographies I have read, this has to be one of the most impressive.
As well as giving an account of the post Blair-Government led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and yet another candid insight into the New Labour project, crucially, this book captures the seriousness of the credit crunch and the actions taken by the British Government to avert complete disaster.
It is difficult to comprehend the significance of the unfolding crisis, and the never ending news of yet more calamity as banks neared collapse and countries flirted with default. But what is clear is the sense of Churchillian action and bravery that was needed in order to prevent the complete collapse of the British and world economy.
This book gave me an insight into the nuances and complexity of the crisis. But it also left me with a sense of grieving too. New Labour's accomplishments were many. Perhaps this is unfair and more to do with the culture that was allowed to develop because of the leadership style in place. Nonetheless, what a pity that a Government that was coming of age was soon let down by seemingly adolescent behaviour. In many ways, the reader is left with both enormous respect for the legacy of the New Labour government and the actions taken by Alistair during the financial crisis, but also by a sense of significant lost opportunity.
I suspect that New Labour will be remembered for as much as its lost potential as it will be for its positive impact on the British people.
Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11
Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations. View or edit your browsing history. Get to Know Us. However, it also has something to do with the fact that Darling comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke doing his best in the worst of circumstances. That is burnished in this memoir Back From The Brink, which is peppered with tales of the Darling's endeavours being thwarted by the prime minister, the Bank of England governor and bankers driven by money and power.
Darling suggests, he was only keeping the Treasury seat warm for Ed Balls, who was preferred by Gordon Brown as Chancellor.
Darling tells the story of his interview in The Guardian newspaper in the summer of which, entirely correctly, warned that the global economy was at risk of its most severe downturn in 60 years. This prompted attacks from Brown's camp. The two fell out badly over the way to handle the credit crunch, with Darling becoming increasingly frustrated by what he saw as the governor's old fashioned approach to providing financial support for the banking system.
Darling sticks his knife into his victims with great deftness. His criticisms of both Gordon Brown and Mervyn King carry more weight because they are leavened with praise where Darling thinks it is due. For example, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September , Darling says it was Brown's force of personality and determination that ensured all the major countries signed up to bailing out the banks. Similarly, King did an "excellent job" in the build-up to the London G20 in April , making sure other central bankers knew what they had to do to boost growth.
The overall impression is of a chronicler who tries to be fair and accurate. Darling's reputation is as a safe pair of hands but his book does contain some factual mistakes. The Doha round of trade talks began in not Alastair Campbell did not leave the government of Tony Blair in ; to have done so would have meant him quitting before the start of the Gulf War in The economy contracted by 4.
The date when the Royal Bank of Scotland was on the brink of collapse shifts from October 7 correct on page one to October 11 incorrect on page 12 and it is 6, miles from London to Cape Town, not 12, These are silly errors which detract a little from a thoroughly readable, and often witty, account of what Darling calls his 1, days at Number Darling does gloss over his responsibility for the flawed system of City regulation that broke down completely during the financial crisis and he never really explains why he did not tell Gordon Brown who was seriously weakened after the "election that never was" in the autumn of Darling bottled up his resentment at the deplorable way he was treated and is now having his revenge in print.
That makes Back from the Brink a really good read. Oct 12, Michael Foley rated it really liked it Shelves: There was no man better poised to witness the brink of disaster more so than Alistair Darling. His days at the Treasury bore witness not only to the collapse of international finance, but also to that of Blair and Brown's New Labour.
Accusations and attacks are often the main component of political memoirs, but Darling is not attempting to settle scores with his memoir. Therefore when he does criticize colleagues and opponents, it comes off with a bit more validity. As far as politicians go There was no man better poised to witness the brink of disaster more so than Alistair Darling.
As far as politicians go, Darling is an honest and upfront man. This can be demonstrated by how he has come away relatively unscathed from one of the most pernicious periods in British politics. A great deal of the book describes the back room discussions with bankers and regulators, compromises with finance ministers, the development of budgets none of which he was truly happy with , and the back biting that existed in Brown's government.
Yet, the crux of Darling's tenure at the Treasury could not have come with two larger obstacles: Although many could argue with his methods, Darling did have a stabilizing effect of the economy. All the while, he worked in an environment where Brown attempted much micromanagement over the Treasury. First and foremost, Brown did not want Darling as his chancellor and he often treated him as a "stop gap" Brown's first choice was Ed Balls.
Furthermore, Brown himself was the previous chancellor during a boom for the British economy.
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As a result, Darling was under immense pressure not just to maintain his job but also to set himself apart from the previous chancellor. Brown is depicted as difficult man on his best days. When Blair took over party leadership, Brown was able to take on an important support role as chancellor, but his real desire was always that of Prime Minister. Things really began to unravel when Blair stepped down.
Darling had a front row view of the entire debacle. He watched as Brown's "management" style tore apart the party. Infighting and fear became part of a day's work. Darling was able to fend off much this by remaining independent within the government. He made hard decisions that often put him out of favor with Brown. As a result, he was able to put some distance between himself and Brown's legacy. Darling still feels that New Labour can rise from the rubble. Despite the intolerable working conditions and the resentment he must have felt towards Brown, Darling's safe hands, dry wit, and love of Labour have come away intact.
This can not be said of many other cabinet members of the time. From the relative safety of the backbenches, Darling can continues his work for the Labour party. Are we back from the brink or just heading towards another precipice? Only time will tell, but Darling's steady guidance prevented a full collapse. If you have an interest in the collapse of Western Capitalism in and , here is an account of what it was like to be in the teeth of the storm. Darling charges straight into the fray with this book as if he knows that this is what the reader wants from it - who cares about Alistair Darling, the man?
We just want to know what it was like to deal up close with events that have come to define the end of an era. Of course, it is also interesting to read about other major players at the time If you have an interest in the collapse of Western Capitalism in and , here is an account of what it was like to be in the teeth of the storm. Of course, it is also interesting to read about other major players at the time - Gordon Brown looms large, and none too positively in this account. The picture of government under Brown is almost laughable if it wasn't so serious.
We let these people run the country? Darling acknowledges that politicians don't get respect from pretty much anyone these days, but he also seems to think that maybe some should.
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The sense is given that certain individuals can impose themselves in situations to turn things around, and Darling certainly seems to want to infer that, despite everything, he was one of them. I'm not sure that in this case politicians were anything more than bystanders as global capital went into death throes.
Despite all these major power brokers being involved in politics and finance, all it brought about was the inevitable response that we - Joe Public - would have to carry the can for it all. Darling makes it sound almost heroic that they made the decision to nationalise the banks. Ehrm, sorry, that's our hard earned cash you're playing with. Why should we pay? Darling gives the usual short shrift to any such question - we just don't understand the apocalypse that would have ensued if the banks had failed. Well, maybe, is all I can say even after reading loads of accounts of how all this happened.
The facts are that, after Lehman, it was a done deal. The banks would simply not be allowed to fail, end of story. They'd be bailed out by you and I, for our own good. So that's all right then. Having dealt with the banking crisis, Darling goes on to whinge about losing the General Election under the lack of leadership by Gordon Brown. This could have been a much more colourful account, but Darling writes with the reserve of a typical accountant studying a balance sheet.
And so ends New Labour, not with a bang but a whimper. Enter the coalition - not with a bang but a whimper. A bit like this book. As of , Alistair Darling is comfortably occupying the position of least worst chancellor of the 21st century and this book, focussing largely on his three years at No. Half of it is given over to pooterish musings, the rest to hard economics but at no point do the joins show.
Unusually, for a New Labour autobiography, this doesn't read like apologia. Instead, and rather remarkably, this is a proper memoir. Darling describes events, without embellishment, as he experienced them. There's no fat here, and no self-justification. Instead, we get a first hand account of what it was like to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the worst financial crisis in eighty years. None of this would matter if the book were badly written, but it isn't.
One might expect Darling, a career politician, to know how to string a narrative together but this is as well-plotted many novels. At the time of my submitting this review, Darling is making a pig's ear of the 'No' campaign in the Scottish indepependence referendum, Astonishingly, he might yet need to be bailed out by his old boss who at least seems to be making a bit of an effort. It's surprising, as Back From The Brink proves Darling is a good egg who can string an argument together.
Whatever the outcome of that debate, however, Darling can take some satisfaction from having written what is presumably destined to become a seminal piece of source material for students of the credit crunch. Dec 27, RK rated it it was amazing. I bought it when it was first published, but everything was still so unsettled the many different iterations of the Euro area crisis, unconventional monetary policy, the taper tantrum, Brexit that I never got round to reading it until now. The additional years don't really diminish any interest in the subject matter - they add to it.
I liked the humour, and - I'll admit - the detail on fiscal policy choices. I don't often come across anything so readable on tax policy choices, and to place these policy choices in the political context of the time made for really good if unconventional summer holiday reading. Jan 23, Carolyn Lochhead rated it liked it. Alistair Darling became Chancellor in June This is a calm account of what he did and what he had to do that nonetheless conveys the sense of calamity that surrounded the financial collapse.
It reminds you of the irresponsibility of the main banks, whose Boards were happy to take on risks they did not understand as long as the wheelbarrows of cash kept arriving. It also reminds you just what a formidable thinker and politician Gordo Alistair Darling became Chancellor in June It also reminds you just what a formidable thinker and politician Gordon Brown is, and makes you wonder what might have been achieved if he could have kept his paranoia under control. And finally, it reminds me exactly why my banking is with a co-operative and a building society, and will remain so.
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Apr 03, Gareth Evans rated it liked it. Very clear description of Darling's days as Chancellor - his straightforward style makes it a quick and enjoyable read. However, the book is let down by three factors. Firstly, Darling is incredibly discreet. Given that he was a real insider there is none of the juicy detail that can make such book so much fun. Secondly, he doesn't always give the requisite context - he'll refer to some action of his going down badly in the press but he doesn't give any detail of the way in which the press Very clear description of Darling's days as Chancellor - his straightforward style makes it a quick and enjoyable read.
Secondly, he doesn't always give the requisite context - he'll refer to some action of his going down badly in the press but he doesn't give any detail of the way in which the press are being critical. Finally, it's rare to read a book so full of self-justification and such little self criticism. It seems Darling's judgement is spot on all the time. I look forward to reading his book that describes his time as leader of the 'no' campaign in the Scottish referendum. Jun 17, Mike rated it really liked it. One of the few Members of Parliament that Westminster has seen in recent decades who has matched competence with likability, Alastair Darling was at the very centre of the global 'credit crunch' and his party's subsequent collapse.
Honest, understated, and prepared to open private conversations only where the other party had already done so, Darling's account of his time as Chancellor is a thoroughly insightful read. He never attempts to smear, as many political memoirs do, and rarely takes the One of the few Members of Parliament that Westminster has seen in recent decades who has matched competence with likability, Alastair Darling was at the very centre of the global 'credit crunch' and his party's subsequent collapse. He never attempts to smear, as many political memoirs do, and rarely takes the opportunity to score points against his successor or those with whom he shared office who caused rifts or under-performed.
With this account, Darling has offered an important viewpoint of the unfolding madness, both economic and political, and has done so with his customary class. Nov 12, Tamer Sadek rated it it was ok. Gives an extremely interesting account of the financial crisis. Why only 2 stars, you may ask? Because I can't stand auto biographies where the author can do no wrong. If you read this you will come away thinking Alastair Darling didn't make a single mistake in 3 years of being Chancellor.
All the bad decisions were Gordon Brown's fault and I'm sure many of there were and the Tories have screwed it up just as Labour's decisions were being vindicated. Sorry, but I can't give A fascinating read.