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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Alistair Darling's quiet rise
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

There is a rude joke in Westminster that states if the prime minister wants to take all the heat and interest out of an issue, he hands it to Alistair Darling.

Alistair Darling
Mr Darling is seen as a safe pair of hands
Who else, after all, could have so successfully shut down transport as a raging issue than the dour, silver-haired Scotsman, who managed it for three years after being given the job in 2002 after a series of controversies led to the resignation of Stephen Byers

And the truth is, this should not necessarily be seen as a negative attribute, as Mr Blair would be the first to admit in relation to transport.

What it says about the quiet, thoughtful MP for Edinburgh South West is that he can be trusted both as a safe pair of hands, but also - and this is rare in modern politics - a minister who does not chase headlines.

Mr Darling will simply get on with the job in the most efficient way possible.

As a result he has seen his cabinet career going from strength to strength and, as a close ally of Gordon Brown's, will continue to flourish under the new prime minister.

Indeed, his ministerial qualities - coming from much the same mold as his predecessor - may make him the ideal chancellor for Gordon Brown who, as prime minister, is expected to continue to have at least one foot firmly on the Treasury.

Key posts

Mr Darling was first elected to Parliament in 1987, after a career as an advocate and a short stint as a councillor, and was soon promoted to the front bench.

1987: Enters Parliament
1988-92: Opposition home affairs spokesman
1992-98: Labour City spokesman
1996-97: Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
1997-98: Chief secretary to the Treasury
1998-2002: Work and pensions Secretary
2002-2006: Transport secretary

He was given the job of chief secretary to the Treasury by Tony Blair after the 1997 election and, despite his friendship with Gordon Brown, continued to be given key cabinet posts.

He replaced Harriet Harman as social security secretary, charged with the formidable task of delivering Mr Blair's Labour's welfare reforms.

In that post, which was renamed work and pensions secretary during his time, Mr Darling was responsible for spending a third of the government's budget.

He has said that if he is remembered, he would like it to be "as the minister who began to eradicate poverty".

Road pricing

But he was one of the targets of angry pensioners who were outraged when their pensions were raised by only 75p last year.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown is a close friend of Mr Darling's
The episode, one of the most damaging of this government's time in office, included a rebellion at Labour's conference in 2000.

Then as transport secretary, after calming the rows that marked Mr Byers' time - and which ended with the "good day to bury bad news" memo on 11 September from his adviser Jo Moore - he moved policy towards an acceptance of road pricing.

That issue continues to rumble on and recently led to a massive petition against it on the Downing Street website.

Mr Darling had, by then, been moved to the department of trade.

Most recently, he sparked controversy by backing moves to exempt MPs and ministers from aspects of the freedom of information laws.

And he has been in the lead in suggesting that Britain's future energy needs may have to be met partly by a return to nuclear power.

He can expect his career to continue to flourish under the new prime minister.

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