Sir Malcolm Rifkind has stepped down as MP for Kensington and as chairman of the Intelligence Committee of the House of Commons following the cash for access scandal. He was secretly filmed by Channel 4 Despatches and the Daily Telegraph offering to represent a fictitious Chinese investment firm in exchange for cash.
The Labour MP Jack Straw was also implicated but he suffered less damage because he had offered to do the work after his long-planned departure from Parliament in May. Both former Foreign Secretaries were suspended from their respective parties and referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Sir Malcolm issued the following statement: “I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons… I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this Parliament.
“This is entirely my personal decision. I have had no such requests from my constituency association but I believe that it is the right and proper action to take.
“As regards the allegations of Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph I find them contemptible and will not comment further at this time. Although I will retire from Parliament I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come.”
He held a number of positions under Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s premiership including including Secretary of State for Scotland (1986–1990), Defence Secretary (1992–1995) and Foreign Secretary (1995–1997).
His career was significantly damaged because he insisted on re-standing for Edinburgh Pentlands in 2001 after losing it in the Conservative wipe-out of 1997. In the end he succeeded Michael Portillo as MP for Kensington and Chelsea in 2005, after which he became a respected backbencher.
Despite his decorated career the circumstances of his departure are likely to play into the hands of both UKIP and the Greens, both of which claim traditional politicians are selfish and out of touch. His departure has also led to speculation about whether a traditionalist or a moderniser will takeover. It is likely the Conservative Party will favour a woman.