Wednesday's Mansion House dinner was supposed to be new U.K. Chancellor George Osborne's big night out. But by far the biggest applause of the evening from assembled City grandees went to predecessor Alistair Darling, much to his evident surprise. The Treasury boss in Gordon Brown's government looked nervous to be back in the City so soon after Labour's election defeat—understandably, given City anger over the 50% tax rate, the bonus tax and his bank-bashing rhetoric.
But when Osborne paid tribute, acknowledging Darling's "very hard work in difficult circumstances", even some of Labour's bitterest critics were seen clapping hard. Perhaps they recognized that the hardest circumstances the unflappable Darling faced was working under a Prime Minister who famously unleashed "the forces of hell" upon him. And they could only imagine what Brown might have unleashed on the City were Darling not there to restrain him.