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The disappointing summer of Sir Malcolm Rifkind

August 17th, 2005


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    Does John Major’s Foreign Secretary stand an earthly?

Our chart based on the best betting prices showing the implied probability of Malcolm Rifkind becoming Tory leader says it all. After an early flurry in the first week or so of the campaign when it touched 10% the Rifkind figure has slipped to barely a third of that. Even Rifkind’s much publicised “Tories are defective” statement at the weekend has not given him the boost he must have hoped for.

    Given that this speech was a sharp attack on the way his party had handled its first eight years in opposition it was always going to be something of a gamble.

To non-Tories much of what he said appeared correct yet the problem for the party is that it is probably not yet ready to be told it. You have been hyped up to fight an election on one basis and it must be difficult to acknowledge that this was wrong. Rifkind’s approach had a similar feel to it to the famous party conference “nasty party” speech by the former Chairman, Theresa May.

A further challenge for Malcolm Rifkind is that he will always be associated with the 1992-1997 Government of John Major.

    Like Ken Clarke he was a key player during those critical years when Tony Blair shifted the political centre of gravity by totally transforming the way that the electorate saw the two main parties. The Tories were demonised and so it remains.

Rifkind’s strategy must be to stay in the race until the party conference and then hope that in the intense media glare the qualities that he brings might shine through. For there’s little doubt that he’s one of the best orators and he is certainly ahead of the front-runner, David Davis, in this regard.

Is we worth the current 34/1? The price seems about right and I have a weakness for long-shots.

Mike Smithson






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