Rifkind: good riddance
Let me declare an interest. I don’t like Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the pompous and sneering politician who has thankfully fallen sword after the excellent sting operation by Channel Four Dispatches, exposing his avaricious and arrogant attitude to being an elected Member of Parliament.
Last year Sir Malcolm co-chaired a press launch at the House of Commons of the Trident Commission. I asked from the floor how he and his fellow co-chair on the Commission, Lib Dem grandee Sir Menzies Campbell, as international lawyers, could support renewing Trident? Its procurement from the United States was in breach of the UK’s legal obligations under both Article 1 (prohibiting the transfer of nuclear explosive devices to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly) and Article 6 (requiring all member states, including nuclear weapons states, and to enter into negotiations to halt the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, ie from 1968) of the 189-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Sir Malcolm looked at me as if he had stepped in something nasty and smelly on the pavement, ignored my question, and let Ming Campbell attempt an answer.
That is the measure of Sir Malcolm: pompously arrogant and loquacious, until struck dumb by somebody knowledgeable prepared to challenge him on his own area of supposed expertise!
In December 2008, he became a leading spokesman of the Global Zero movement, which includes over 300 eminent leaders and over 400,000 citizens from around the world working toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons by multilateral negotiation. In backing Trident’s renewal, he seemed to be directly contradicting this organisation.
Also, if you look at his record as an MP, it's hard to find evidence of him paying much attention to its role, which includes keeping the government of the day to account. He boasted to the undercover reporters, "there is an awful lot of which is not secret which if you ask the right questions you'll get an answer." But either he was insufficiently curious or all knowing, as since the formation of the coalition government nearly five years ago he asked just one written question to government on behalf of his constituents.
But Sir Malcolm knows how to be active when he wants to be. Here is an extract from the Independent nine years ago:
“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, undertook to lobby the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, in an attempt to land a lucrative oil contract in Iraq for BHP Billiton, according to evidence given to a public inquiry in Australia.Last year Sir Malcolm was appointed Chairman of the World Economic Forum's Nuclear Security Council. Just last month, he was appointed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a member of their Eminent Persons Panel on European Security. Let’s hope he has been un-appointed from both.
“In the most blatant evidence to so far emerge about Western businesses jockeying for a slice of Iraq's oil wealth, the Anglo-Australian group BHP Billiton drew up a plan for getting access to the huge Iraqi Halfayah oilfield just weeks after outbreak of war in 2003."BHP Billiton held a secret meeting in May 2003 in London with Sir Malcolm - who has worked as a consultant to the company since 1997 - and Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, to discuss how best to convince the Americans that BHP Billiton should be handed the Halfayah field in southern Iraq.“The evidence came to light as part of a Royal Commission inquiry started late last year in Australia to examine any involvement of the country's businesses in breaching the sanctions that were in place against Iraq before the war. According to the minutes of the meeting, Shell, the oil giant, and Tigris Petroleum, a joint venture set up by BHP Billiton and some of its former executives, were also interested in "securing the Halfayah field investment".
“The minutes, which were taken by Australian government officials and labelled "Confidential", note: "Sir Malcolm emphasised that it was critical to register the BHP Billiton/British Dutch [Shell]/Tigris interest early with the US administration... It was a good claim and required lobbying - including from the Australian government - in Washington."
The document said that BHP Billiton had briefed the office of Australia's Prime Minister adding, "it has only just started lobbying in the UK but intended to approach Downing Street and the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry]".
"The minutes said "Sir Malcolm would be seeking an appointment with Vice-President Cheney when the opportunity arose". And Mr Downer, who is still Foreign Minister, "agreed he would raise the matter both in Washington and in Baghdad with Paul Bremer [the US administrator of Iraq]".
Laughably, five years ago he was considered an eminent enough MP to chair the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the House of Commons in April 2010. To think he was considered fit to chair Parliament’s “Intelligence” Committee too.
There is an excellent book, published 24 years ago, written by Mark Hollingsworth, called MPs for Hire. He dubs the type of behaviour exhibited by Sir Malcolm as “pork-barrel politics”. Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn told the BBC this week that some MPs have got their body so far into the trough, all you can see is the soles of their Gucci shoes. Bye, bye Sir Malcolm.