Once, while having lunch in the Red Lion Hotel in Salisbury, I overheard that doyen of Tory back benchers the late John Morrison, aka, Lord Margadale, ( of whom, strangely, no image is available) saying that he thought that Malcolm Rifkind was a potential future leader of the Conservative Party. Since Morrison is widely rumoured to have been responsible for the emergence of Sir Alec Douglas Home as Tory leader in 1963 my ears as they say “pricked up,” and I have always followed Rifkind’s career with interest. And I wondered too whether he would really get to the top of what Disraeli called the greasy pole.
He has occupied many of the great offices of the British state, and has been a sensible voice about foreign policy, whether or not all of his specific judgement have been correct.
.But that was then, and this is now. The recent “sting” carried out by The Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 may not have been very edifying, and may, who knows have been a factor in the resignation of Peter Oborne from the paper, nevertheless the video footage of Sir Malcolm which resulted is absurd, shameful, and idiotic.
It is absurd because anyone who believes that an income of sixty seven thousand pounds year does not really count as a salary has lost that vital link with reality which we all must pray that we maintain. It is shameful because of the casual assumption which it reveals namely that positions of public trust, such as being Foreign Secretary, entitles the holder to exploit the “contacts” he made in the role for personal gain at an exhorbitant price. It is idiotic because only a fool would assume that such an approach of the kind depicted on the video was not either potentially corrupt, or part of a sting as this one turned out to be. John Morrison would have been horrified not merely by the Sir Malcolm’s greed, but also by his stupidity.
Sir Malcolm, and no doubt Mr. Straw too, has asserted that he promised to do nothing which was not within the rules. This may be true. But it is hardly a sufficient defence. If Sir Malcolm wishes to reclaim his honour he has but one choice, and that is to leave Parliament forthwith even if that subjects his party to the inconvenience of a bye election. John Morrison was wrong. Sir Malcolm failed to reach the top of Disraeli’s greasy pole; but he got high enough up. He now has only one way of ensuring that he does not end up a pathetic figure in the mud at the bottom of it!