Best bit of Rifkind’s memoir is the index
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.