The Straw that Broke Rifkind’s Back

 

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Malcolm Rifkind, Edinburgh MP – he’ll not get out of bed for less than £5,000

 As a politician, Malcolm Rifkind always knew what to say but never how to make it interesting. Had he had that skill he might have been a better public speaker.

When he did speak he never spoke longer than the average time a person needs to boil an egg. What none of us Westminster watchers realised was, how skilled he and his political opposite, Jack Straw, were at sleaze and dishonour. Now both are exposed, caught haggling a price for their services to passing ‘clients.’

Same as any common prostitute, it’s cash for access.

How much do I get?

Rifkind is a Tory, a Scottish one, but in the same market as Labour’s Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, two who also hire themselves to the highest bidder, and sell their country to the lowest. They all have in common a welcome propensity for political suicide.

Malcolm Rifkind, KCMG, QC, MP, was my Edinburgh MP once upon a time, Edinburgh Pentlands, lately Kensington in the colonic irrigation salons of London. He tried to buy my house which had an office built in the garden, the building a place he thought he could use to meet his south-side constituents. He wasn’t  Sir Malcolm then, Tory grandee, but was certainly destined for the Lords one day. His cousins are Samuel and the late Leon Brittan. But like so many before him, he judges rank as having more money than your fellow-man.

On each occasion I needed his input for an arts projects, (the first an arts in education charity I had founded) I found him to be courteous and considerate. I saw the opposite side of him when opposed to his support of a local quarry development. There he was orotund, sarcastic and pompous.

Pride before a fall

Today his mercenary behaviour sees him humiliated, suspended from his cosy safe haven, the Conservative party, stepping down as an MP just prior to a general election for a super-safe seat, and relinquishing the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

There’s something rib-tickling comical about getting scammed by a television crew and a fake Chinese company when investigating intelligence and security measures. But then, Rifkind always walked a thin line between poise and prat. A plummy pronunciation, all finishing school plus strangled vowels, is a sure sign of a Scotsman on the make, a man not totally confident of his breeding and education, or his status in society. Bifocals and a pop-eyed astigmatism didn’t help his demeanour of fair-minded, moderate statesman. Instead, he presents the image of mad scientist, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Avaricious has it

I discuss him using the past tense for his career is all but over, ending in opprobrium, his elevation to the House of Lords uncertain, and all because he was recorded playing the role of poverty-stricken mendicant. And he from George Watson’s School. How education is wasted on the young!

Guiding the security committee is a serious task, getting to the bottom of secret things, finding truth, and dispensing justice, a suitable job for an Edinburgh lawyer. Rifkind was given the job as trusted guardian of the nation’s security only to prostitute himself for hire to what he thought was a Chinese company which, since China is a damnable communist dictatorship that runs an authoritarian and corrupt system not unlike Westminster’s, would likely mean dealing with Chinese state departments and officials. Cross my palm with English silver and I shall open doors for you. No Yen accepted.

From supporter of the Poll Tax to respected elder statesman about to pronounce on the consequences of Edward Snowden’s whistle blowing over the scandal of mass government spying on citizens, he assumes the unlikable role of  Shakespeare’s Malvolio, grovelling for promotion and back pocket-money, caught by BBC spies working on the story for the political issues programme Panorama. Oh, the irony.

A freelancer

“I’m self-employed,” he pleaded to television reporters he thought businessmen. Press and media have him earning £67,000 a year as an MP, plus expenses, expenses that are considerable welfare benefits freeing his salary. Journalists miss the additional £15,000 a year he was receiving as chair of the Intelligence Committee. That means he was earning £82,000 annually, a sum he claimed he struggled to live by. He wanted to “have the standard of living that my professional background would normally entitle me to have”.

“Entitle”

There you have it. Entitle. And there’s more. The House of Commons register of Member’s Interests, his outside earnings, (can be read online) has him with another half-million pounds. Then there is the property he owns. All declared of course. Nevertheless, his constituents must have been surprised and then peeved to hear him also say he had lots of time on his hands for reading and walking.

Well, he’s going to have a lot more time for reading and walking, a whole library of time and enough time to take a hike up Ben Nevis and down the other side.

TV interviews will purge me

He didn’t help his case by doing the rounds of radio and television interviews protesting his innocence, saying he will fight the intolerable falsehoods to the bitter end. He just kept digging a bigger and bigger hole. But that’s the Rifkind I knew, the one once Secretary of State for Scotland. He knew how to play the game, how to repeat only the advice of civil servants, to say nothing controversial or interesting ever, a good example of how to maintain a blemish-free career in politics. He just could not make it plausible.

The fine detective thriller novelist and nationalist, Frederic Lindsay, also had Rifkind as an MP. Lindsay was deeply unhappy with Rifkind’s pronouncements on policy for Scotland, particularly his task of privatising everything as Thatcherite protégé. Eric, as he was known to friends, dressed up as a Tory voter and gained entry to a closed meeting. At question time he stood up and enunciated his well-planned queries but answer to each Rifkind had none, completely tongue-tied, lost for knowledge. Rifkind’s agent tried to answer for him. “I asked my MP, sir. Not you.” shot back Lindsay, “I want him to answer.” According to witnesses, Rifkind waffled and then fell silent. I wish I had been there.

A straw in the wind

Jack Straw, like Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary for Westminster, was caught doing the same thing by the same BBC investigative journalists. Straw is seen boasting how well he is connected, how he can get his erstwhile (bogus) clients into the inner sanctum of foreign government to aid their business ventures by altering laws and regulation. A click of his fingers and all is gone. (He didn’t include his political career in that phrase.)

Rifkind might have survived mild censure for being caught snivelling and snorting had Straw not also been caught simultaneously, snout in the trough. His party is in power, albeit a shaky coalation, but power enough to have given him some gardening time until brought back to shoulder a pelt of ermine. The BBC could not be seen partisan, it had to check both political parties; what better than testing the will power of their respective foreign secretaries?

Straw is the chaff that broke Rifkind’s back. And this brings me to the point of the essay, the issue almost all press commentators and pundits overlook.

The swagger of Straw and Rifkind show us how easily the power elite work the system for the benefit of the few, themselves included. For a fat fee they will alter well discussed and debated company law and regulation, there to protect the public in general and consumer in particular. As MPs they are willing to alter or remove rules that govern business practice, ethics and profits.

Swagger sticks

But that has a price. They owe the other side a favour, and in time the other side will call back to collect it. They weaken their authority in the very act of exercising it.

Lay aside for a moment a Tory and a Labour politician tossing away their principles for a pound while boasting of their lobbying prowess. What they demonstrate is how close each party is to each other in policies. Theirs are the parties of business and corporate power. Representatives of the people, of their voters, they are not.

To many people Straw is a discredited politician solely for his part in sending troops into Iraq on the basis of faked evidence and hyperbole. They see him as a war criminal, and indeed by every tenet of the Nuremberg Rules of War he is exactly that. Like Bush and Blair, Straw was determined to teach democracy to Iraqis even if he had to shoot every damn one of them. Where Straw differs from Rifkind is in Rifkind’s antagonism to the invasion of Iraq. In the case of both men, however, they show us how idealism and fairness is so easily debauched by power and the lure of Mammon.

Whatever good work Rifkind and Straw accomplished in their long political careers, and the curious will find good work done by both, is wiped out in a single day by a serious error of judgement. The error was hubris and greed.

Unfortunately the joke is on us. Both retire to do as much reading and walking as they like, done on fat pensions. They can say with a satisfied smile, “Hey, at least I get paid for this.”

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26 Responses to The Straw that Broke Rifkind’s Back

  1. jimnarlene says:

    Greed, the conquerer of empires and men.
    I’m sure they are just the tip, of a gargantuan iceberg.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    Caught troughing weeks before a general election sealed their fate. ‘You gotta lay low, Riffy, buddy. Keep outa sight until da Feds get bored and da heat dies down.’ Out of sight, out of mind.
    But as you say, how many more are still at it?

  3. Graham MacQueen says:

    In all honestly, I think that any politician, from the centre of the political spectrum to the right of the political spectrum, is/was/has been guilty of such actions and in many cases much worse. I’m without doubt that such practices have been common place for decades; if not longer. And herein lies the predicament facing the average person across Scotland, the UK, the EU and, in fact, most of the Westernised World. Greed will prevail. Day by day it is becoming more and more evident that a very large number of politicians from most corners of the globe have been following the same, if not similar, tactics. Namely, robbing the common man (or woman) of both money, wealth and dignity!

    People the world over have been robbed by those who have been voted into positions of power so as to protect them and who have drastically failed to do just that; all thanks to their love of the Greenback. The conclusion drawn from these practices taking place on such a grand scale is that the politicians responsible believe they are way above the law of the land. Albeit, self projected positions, but, nonetheless, well above the same laws that apply to the average Tom, Dick and Harry.

    In my very humble opinion, the actions of these politicians, and that of a large majority of their peers, is indicative to the failures of their (mistaken) belief in neoliberalism. What makes it even more insulting, though, is that such politicians dress their political beliefs up in words which lead Joe Bloggs into thinking that they are being represented by someone who has their best interests at heart when, in fact, they are underhandedly selling them out.

    For me, personally, the question(s) that arises are thus: What motive(s) do politicians have in pursuing, either overtly or covertly, neoliberalism? Is it simply the satisfaction of their desire for money that drives them to ignore scruples or is their a ‘hidden agenda’ behind it all?

    Rifkind and Straw were simply caught out due to their arrogance towards those they are supposed to be serving and, undoubtedly, are only the tip of a very, very, very gargantuan iceberg, as jimnarlene said, but are we willing to deal with the mess of what we will unmistakably uncover if we keep digging? I for one am digging as fast and as hard as I can!

  4. Graham MacQueen says:

    *there*

  5. Ghillie says:

    Thank you Grouse Beater. Really useful article!

    I particularly enjoyed ‘ Rifkind always walked a very fine line between poise and prat’ !

    And the rest of that paragraph beautifully explains the character of folk of his ilk, many of whom sadly also belong to Edinburgh.

    Apparently 4 out of 100 people are sociopaths. Rifkind and Straw certainly seem to fit the bill. They both seem to have no conscience at all. The scary thing is that I suspect there is an unusually high percentage of sociopaths who make their way into positions of power. Meeting and supporting those or their tribe lends them even greater power. Which makes their being caught red-handed and exposed probably unusual but most definitely gratifying.

    And makes me appreciate the decent, honest, genuine folk I see standing up for Scotland now so very very much.

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    Fine sentiments, Ghillie.

    Did you see how Rifkind behaved to the press when confronted by them after he resigned? ‘Entitlement betrayed.’ He behaved just like

    What an arrogant man. But what we mustn’t forget is, he is one of many. White Anglo Saxon supremacy. English politics! English politics! All is bloody English politics! I am sick of hearing of them.

  7. Calgacus says:

    Are both of these “gentlemen” Jewish? This might explain their sense of entitlement at our expense.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      I believe Rifkind’s family are of Lithuanian stock. Then again, I’m half-Sicilian but I don’t associate with the Mafia. And among relatives are an Audrey, an Esther, a Hymie, a Michael, almost every name except Shlomo. 🙂

      • Calgacus says:

        Thanks for your reply and your open mindedness. Of course I do not wish my comment above to be interpreted as being anti semitic. My disagreement is with politicians like Rifkind and Straw who are both anti Scottish. 😉

    • Ian Caldwell says:

      Calgacus
      Are they non-Jewish? That might explain their sense of entitlement at our expense, also.

      Whoever you are, you are odious.

  8. macart763 says:

    Couldn’t agree more Grouse.

    How many times indeed and multiplied by how many in office over how much time?

    Even after the car crash that was the Cruddas sting, they carry on regardless, completely unafraid of either parliamentary punishment or public opprobrium. Why should they? In the first instance they belong to that same private members club that all parliamentarians do and in the second they have the media to ensure that the publics attention span remains short and filled with apathy.

    Hopefully not for too much longer though. I believe the recent re-awakening and political engagement of the Scottish electorate may prove to be a tilting point all on its own. They did go too far in their referendum campaign They let down, alienated and othered too many of their once traditional and loyal vote. An electorate who received an education of hard knocks and shocks over a three year period. Its true to say though that once a thing has been seen and learned, it cannot be unseen or unlearned and that I think is their current problem.

  9. hektorsmum says:

    An excellent take down GB, we met him one day on the campaign trail up at the Safeway’s at Hunters Tryst. He strode over to my Husband thrusting his hand out saying that he was Malcolm Rifkind, Hubby looked him up and down and said I know who you are and walked on.

    I heard him waffling the morning of his denouement and as I am hard of hearing and having the ability to tune out the Radio, I did not really hear him word for word but the one thing that came over was he had lost his usual elder statesmen, Prince Charles sound alike tone and was speaking in a hurried manner, so my thought was that he was really rattled. Not surprised that he has had to resign, just another corrupt and really rather vain and stupid man. The other one, well Jack Straw must be one of the most hated men in Parliament..

    I do blame the electorate though, in 2010 they had the opportunity to clear house and what did they do, they voted most of the rubbish back in.

  10. Wee Jonny says:

    “Theirs are the parties of business and corporate power. Representatives of the people, of their voters, they are not.” Nailed it yet again GB.

    To think that we voted Yes becuse we knew what these bastards were doing with our country and had been doing to our country for over 300 years and could see that we could change that simply by reading and educating ourselves then putting a wee X in the right box still makes me laugh and greet every effin day.

    I laugh at the supposedly superior intelligence of the people I see everyday that “they” knew the union should continue no matter what because “they” were superior. They were Tories.

    I laugh at these Tories as they’re in their 60’s and 70’s, working for someone half their age for £6.90 p/h and getting treated like shit. But they are Tories and genuinely think they have more in common with Dave & George than they do with their window cleaner. Even though it was pointed out to them time and time again what our country was in for after a no vote. By their window cleaner.

    I laugh because even though we were vilified and called every name under the sun (and Daily Record😉) by those far superior than us who thought we were as thick as shit, we stuck by our Yes as we knew our Yes would rid us of the Rifkinds and Straws and the countless others who are lining their pockets on the side.

    I greet that we’re stuck with these bastards for another few years while our country gets stripped of its assets and continues taking a kicking on “shows” like QT and the arseholes who panel it.

    Reading sites like GB, Wings, Bella, WGD and having the SNP in our corner I know we will have our day. And that’s enough to make any unionist greet.

  11. Wee Jonny says:

    Woops. Meant to add that it’s not only sites like GB, Wings etc etc it’s the contributors, commenters, joinee inners that let me ken we’ll hay oor day.

  12. Grouse Beater says:

    I agree. And ‘whoops’ posts are welcome here too. 😉

  13. Ian Caldwell says:

    Your response to a blatantly anti-jewish comment seemed rather lukewarm. Am I to take it that you have some sympathy for such a view?

  14. Grouse Beater says:

    If you mean me, certainly not. That would be to insult my intelligence.

    By mentioning the number of Jewish people that are my relatives – I missed out Beverley – I hope I stem potential intolerance. As for my attitude, I state somewhere in an earlier essay that I regard, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as the three great evils in this world.

    On the wider question, there’s a place for a debate on what is Israeli and what is Zionism, and what is the consequence of a cosy handshake in whatever form it might take for whatever preferment. It isn’t here, now. For my part I have met with negative prejudice for being a goy from my Jewish colleagues when in Los Angeles, as well as by my English ‘friends’ for being Scottish.

    Then again, when a street urchin the Plotkins often fed me unleavened bread to fill out my skinny ribs. I learned much about the Jewish religion. But I am impatient when I see a Jew or a Christian pause for prayer at the dinner table, and take time on ritual to bless bread. I do not want to celebrate some unseen god in the sky, but instead celebrate friendship around the table.

    When in Israel I was happy to discover a great many people at odds with their government’s more aggressive policies. “We are a peaceful people,” said the head of television to me. “A piece of Palestine, a piece of Jordan, a piece of the West Bank …” Perhaps in time I might venture into discussing that unhappy land and the Israeli-Palestine question.

    My concerns on this site is Scotland and Scot-internationally. The comment made by the poster that you objected to is so abstract, so ambiguous as not to justify a knee-jerk reaction.

    • Ian says:

      Grouse Beater
      The relative merits of religion or otherwise or indeed the policies of the Israeli state is not the issue here.
      The comment by Calgacus was completely out of context and it was by no means so abstract or ambiguous as to be anything other than denigration by sterotype. I cannot agree that a clear condemnation is a knee jerk reaction.
      You can either permit all comments on this blog or you can censor comments. By censoring my initial comment, it appeared that you favoured the latter. That is your prerogative.

      I enjoy reading your blog and I share your views on Scotland and the UK. I was simply taken aback by your reaction to what is obviously a racially provocative comment..

      I’ll leave it to to decide wheter or not to permit this comment.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        The relative merits of religion or otherwise or indeed the policies of the Israeli state is not the issue here.

        I am sorry to say they are. Israel’s decades of antagonism against the Palestinian people was bound to cause a reaction in the west by people perceiving Israel and Judaism as one and the same, and we are seeing it now. That was my interpretation of his ‘entitlement’ remark.

        Your initial response was not censored – I block only personal abuse. I’ll check where it went!

        I think it best we do not inflame stereotype perceptions here on both sides of the argument.

        You made your point very well – and I made mine. Calcagus will have read your rebuke, and my answer.

      • Calgacus says:

        Denigration of greedy politicians whose background obviously make them feel entitled to make themselves rich at our expense.
        If their background happens to be Jewish then so be it. Does being Jewish make one immune to criticism?
        “If you want to know who rules you then first see who you are NOT allowed to criticise “(Voltaire)

  15. Graham MacQueen says:

    Completly of topic, but I thought you would enjoy this article written by philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Makes for very good reading!!!! http://potemkinreview.com/note-syriza/

  16. Grouse Beater says:

    Excellent article, Graham. He’s right, it is a form of modern state slavery. Our ‘special’ relationship with the USA was predicated on the huge loan they gave the UK via the Marshall Plan. We could have cut the ties when it was repaid, sometime early in the 1990s, (am too lazy to check actual year) but instead Westminster decided that being a world power meant being happy staying slave to US foreign policy.
    I’ll be writing about Syriza and German-French anti-democracy again soon.

  17. Ricky says:

    Another cracking read Grouse.

    I really enjoy the huge amount of information online since the referendum . Scots have had a good look at themselves and those who “serve” us, politically and socially . We see the cracks now and these two above are more than likely the tip of the iceberg.

    They are representations of the establishment that will in turn break up the UK. I remember Rifkind and the poll tax . He was a hated figure then but has kept himself out of the public gaze probably because there are so many of these chancers getting caught on a regular basis ie . expenses.

    Everyday since has been one calamity after another.

    I still hurt about the referendum defeat. But , the collapse of labour/Libdems and the anti-Scots rhetoric from darn sarf has given me hope we shall be shot of the lot sooner rather than later.

    keep up the great work please.

  18. Grouse Beater says:

    I still hurt about the referendum defeat.

    The whole edifice of neoliberal politics and enforced artificial austerity is to kill hope. But there’s seems to be an understanding of what’s happening and a gathering rebellion. More on this soon …

  19. bert says:

    Great article. Rifkind always was a pompous prat.

    & Jack Straw branded himself a ‘Conspiracy Theoryist‘.

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