Best bit of Rifkind’s mem­oir is the index

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS - Bite­back Pub­lish­ing £25 Re­view by Harry Mc­Grath

Rifkind from pep­per­ing the book with his in­con­testable author­ity. A favourite phrase is “quite prop­erly” which is the equiv­a­lent of Dr John­son’s “there’s an end on it”. So, for in­stance, af­ter the 1979 de­vo­lu­tion ref­er­en­dum the CCORDING to Mal­colm gov­ern­ment “quite prop­erly” re­fused to Rifkind in the in­tro­duc­tion to set up a Scot­tish as­sem­bly de­spite a his mem­oir, prag­matic ma­jor­ity for Yes. The al­ter­na­tive view – politi­cians have con­vic­tions that the fix was in – goes un­recorded. but con­sider the Rifkind’s line on Scot­land gen­er­ally is con­se­quences of their ac­tions. A that Mar­garet Thatcher didn’t con­vic­tion politi­cian, on the other hand, un­der­stand the place and needed him as “is guided by a clear doc­trine, ide­ol­ogy an in­ter­preter. But he didn’t un­der­stand or set of be­liefs” and is not for turn­ing. Scot­land any bet­ter than she did.

Rifkind places him­self in the first He boasts of be­ing “more Thatcherite cat­e­gory and there are no prizes for than Mrs Thatcher”, man­ag­ing to guess­ing which con­vic­tion politi­cian he pri­va­tise the North of Scot­land Hy­dro­has in mind as the “supreme” ex­am­ple of Elec­tric Board when she thought it the sec­ond. How­ever, one man’s couldn’t be done. His as­sess­ment of prag­ma­tist is an­other woman’s vac­il­la­tor Scot­land’s op­po­si­tion to Thatcher is and Mar­garet Thatcher was never both re­duc­tive and of­fen­sive. “She was a en­tirely con­vinced by Rifkind. To teach woman. She was an English woman. her a post­hu­mous les­son, he iden­ti­fies And she was a bossy English woman. Churchill and Dis­raeli as fel­low The com­bi­na­tion was im­pos­si­ble to prag­ma­tists while cit­ing Hitler, Mao over­come.” Tse-tung and Pol Pot as ex­am­ples of Rifkind’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ended in where con­vic­tion pol­i­tics can lead. It’s 2015 when he stepped down as MP for not the last time that Rifkind ap­pears to Kens­ing­ton af­ter a Daily Tele­graph/ be talk­ing across the reader to the ghost Chan­nel 4 “cash for ac­cess” sting. In one of his for­mer boss. of the few sus­tained pas­sages in the

Rifkind was born in Ed­in­burgh into a book, he por­trays him­self as an in­no­cent Lithua­nian Jewish fam­ily which had dupe. As is his custom, he tries to draw a come to Bri­tain in the 1890s. He line un­der the af­fair with “All’s well that at­tended Ge­orge Wat­son’s Col­lege and ends well”. How­ever, his re­flec­tions at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh and, as a the time on en­ti­tle­ment and the young man, trav­elled to In­dia, Africa in­ad­e­quacy of MPs’ salaries may live and the Mid­dle East. longer in the pub­lic me­mory than he

A gov­ern­ment min­is­ter­like.for18years,he­would was Sec­re­tary of State for Scot­land, Trans­port, De­fence and For­eign Sec­re­tary. Only Palmer­ston ex­ceeds him in un­in­ter­rupted ser­vice. Add shadow roles and the chair­man­ship of com­mit­tees in­clud­ing In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity and his should be a glit­ter­ing story full of in­trigue and insight.

Sadly, the most in­ter­est­ing thing about Rifkind’s mem­oir is the index. Bill Clin­ton said that a lot of pres­i­den­tial bi­ogra­phies are self-serv­ing and dull, but even a pres­i­dent of mod­est in­tel­lect would strug­gle to turn all this promis­ing raw ma­te­rial into such a te­dious nar­ra­tive.

Rifkind touches down all over the place, makes no ef­fort to dis­tin­guish the pro­found from the triv­ial and seems in­ca­pable of adding colour to any­thing. The Clin­tons are a good ex­am­ple of his gad­fly style. His as­so­ci­a­tion with them pro­vides the fol­low­ing in­sights – Bill is a great ab­sorber of in­for­ma­tion, Hil­lary is “ar­tic­u­late, good-hu­moured, and clearly a se­ri­ous pub­lic fig­ure in her own right.” From there, it’s on to Cyprus.

This in­abil­ity to fo­cus doesn’t pre­vent

AMOST re­tired politi­cians are “yes­ter­day’s men” to one de­gree or an­other, but Rifkind’s ca­reer reads like some­thing from the dis­tant past. The po­si­tion of Sec­re­tary of State for Scot­land which he once con­sid­ered vicere­gal is now di­min­ished to the point of ab­sur­dity.

The SNP has ended “right to buy” for all coun­cil and hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion ten­ants, re­vers­ing the Ten­ants’ Rights (Scot­land) Bill which he lists as one of his achieve­ments. Since the book was pub­lished he and Ken Clarke have been caught in an in­ad­ver­tent Sky livemi­cro­phone dis­cus­sion on the Tory lead­er­ship, the two of them sub­se­quently por­trayed on Twit­ter as Statler and Wal­dorf from the Mup­pets.

Whether you agree with his pol­i­tics or not, Rifkind’s ca­reer was a re­mark­able one and it de­serves a good mem­oir. Sadly, those dogged enough to reach the end of this one will re­gard “the right to pro­duce a sec­ond vol­ume of me­moirs” as more of a threat than a promise.

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