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Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11

Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11

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In the summer of late 2007, shares of Northern Rock went into free-fall causing a run on the bank - the first since the Great Depression. Northern Rock was only the first: in the ensuing months, Alistair Darling stood firm in the eye of this perfect storm - all over the world financial institutions thought 'too big to fail' were falling prey to the lethal toxicity of the US sub-prime mortgage market. Back from the Brink tells the gripping story of one thousand days of crisis. As Chancellor, Alistair Darling sanctioned the GBP37bn bailouts of RBS and HBoS just minutes before their cash machines would have ceased to function; at the 11th hour, he prevented Barclay's from acquiring Lehman Brothers, telling US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that he wouldn't allow British banks to import America's economic cancer; he used controversial legislation to stop Icelandic banks from withdrawing funds from the UK. From all night meetings at the White House, to confrontations with the titans of international banking and fractions relations with Gordon Brown, Darling places the reader in the rooms where the destinies of millions weighed heavily on the shoulders of a few.

Alistair Darling is the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South West. Initially appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1997, he moved to become Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in 1998. He spent another four years as Secretary of State for Transport, also becoming Secretary of State for Scotland in 2003. He served as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 2006, before Gordon Brown promoted him to Chancellor in 2007.

More books by Alistair Darling

Customer Reviews

This paperback was first published in 2012 with an updated, new introduction. There can be no excuse, therefore, on page 59 for describing Standard life as "Europe's biggest mutual insurer". After a great deal of acrimony, Standard Life demutualised in July 2006 and is now a big cuddly shareholder-owned insurer like all the others - although better than many to be absolutely fair. Nor on page 146 did I enjoy reading about the Nationwide Building Society that: "The Nationwide is, in effect, the lender of last resort for all of Britain's Building Societies because of its sheer size and influence." When the crash hit, Nationwide was close to the maximum limit allowed by law for Building Societies to participate in wholesale markets. If liquidity had not dried up, it would have supported moves to increase that limit. That gives no credit to Yorkshire Building Society for its rescue of three Building Society franchises that failed during the crash. It was the members, largely the saving members, of the original Nationwide and YBS proprietary franchises who bankrolled the rescues. All the building societies had access to the special liquidity scheme of the Bank of England on the same terms as the banks but the FSCS payments bore unfairly on them. Those two lacunae aside, the book was a good narrative account which I bought because I felt Alistair Darling was rather done down by the response to how he caught and ran with the ball tossed at him by Gordon Brown. Page 325 contains a good timeline of the key events against which the account should be judged as it highlights the politics at each stage. The book is far too polite to the now-departed leaders of the FSA and might have given more of the benefit of the doubt to Mervyn King. Alistair Darling could also have given himself more credit for the Special Administration Regime to resolve investment and deposit banks, in the light of Lehman, announced after he left office. I do not regret the purchase price and in a few years' time, I will doubtless take it down off the bookshelf and read it again.

- 17/09/2012
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