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Liam Byrne: I was ready to quit public life after 'no money' note made public

Published 12/10/2016

Liam Byrne wrote the note on April 6 2010 as the country prepared to choose a new government
Liam Byrne wrote the note on April 6 2010 as the country prepared to choose a new government

Former Treasury minister Liam Byrne has revealed he was ready to quit public life after his infamous note declaring there was "'no money'' left was made public when Labour left government in 2010.

His Liberal Democrat replacement as chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, broke with convention when he disclosed details of the letter Mr Byrne wrote as he was clearing his desk.

The 15-word note was repeatedly used against Labour as evidence that it failed to take the country's finances seriously.

Mr Byrne said he was "kind of ready" to throw himself off a cliff amid the condemnation, although he stressed he did not seriously entertain suicide.

He told an audience at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival that he went to seek advice from his uncle in Dorset after the note was revealed at a time when he was struggling to deal with his father's drink-related death.

"I was ready to quit public life," Mr Byrne said.

"I hadn't been able to save my dad from drinking and I had written this note that was now being used to hammer the Labour Party.

"So I, in my desperation, in a real moment of anguish, took myself to my uncle, who is the wisest man I know. He walked me up to the cliff at the back of his house in Dorset and I was kind of ready to throw myself off.

"I said, 'What am I supposed to do?'. And he gave me a brilliant line from Samuel Beckett: 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better'."

Asked if he felt ashamed, Mr Byrne said: "Completely, because on a very personal level I thought I had failed my dad. But in my public life I've also committed this terrible mistake."

Mr Byrne wrote the note on April 6 2010 as the country prepared to choose a new government.

It said: ''Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam.''

Mr Byrne has since admitted that every day he "burnt with the shame of it".

Press Association

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