Alistair Darling, the man charged with leading the No campaign in the Scottish independence referendum, has changed a little over the past few decades: He’s dropped both a radical political stance and a thick beard.
Check out out the photo above — that’s the former Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking at a Labour conference in the early 1980s, next to a slightly more recent photo.
Darling’s party — like his unkept eyebrows — has not changed. But his individual politics have. A lot. In the 1970s Darling was more left-wing than China’s Chairman Mao, according to George Galloway, the far-left Respect party’s only member of parliament:
Long ago, back in the mists of time when he had the beard he shaved off because it was tickling Gordon’s bum, Darling was to the left of Mao Zedong.
When I first met him 35 years ago Darling was pressing Trotskyite tracts on bewildered railwaymen at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. He was a supporter of the International Marxist Group.
Darling was so far from mainstream politics that Galloway says he planned to ignore budgetary rules while serving as treasurer of a Scottish council. A similar move nearly bankrupted Liverpool in 1984-85.
Though the alluring Aberdeen-educated Alistair might have lost a little of his rugged charm, he knew how to make a gloomy speech back then, too.
He pops up in this clip from the BBC around the 18-second mark with a fairly pessimistic take on life under Margaret Thatcher. At one point, Darling warns that “friends will be set against each other over the last can of food that they can find.”
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