Big beasts who could be brought down by new 'cash for access' scandal

Sir Malcolm Rifkind has occupied the upper echelons of Westminster for decades and is currently chairman of the influential parliamentary intelligence select committee.

Jack Straw, too, is still seen as a big beast in the Labour party, despite not having held a frontbench position since 2010.

They have spent decades opposing each other in the House of Commons – notably over the Iraq war.

But there are strands that unite the Conservative Rifkind with Straw.

Both, for example, have served as foreign secretary. And both have now been caught up in a new “cash for access” scandal.

It remains to be seen if either will be found to have done anything wrong, but having scaled the political heights, both have a long way to fall.

Rifkind once had pretensions to the leadership of the Tory party. But he has also known the political wilderness, having lost his seat in the Commons in 1997.

Nevertheless, the questions posed by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme and the Daily Telegraph represent a grave threat to his political career.

Straw has already announced he will stand down in May but he remains a respected figure in the Labour party.

Besides his committee chairmanship, Rifkind served as a minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including stints as foreign secretary and defence secretary.

He also held a shadow cabinet position during Michael Howard’s time as Tory leader, between 2003 and 2005.

He was an ally of Thatcher as she sought the Tory leadership in 1975 and was rewarded with a senior position on her frontbench team. The move marked his arrival as a big beast of UK politics.

As recently as December 2014, he has led the calls for the CIA to hand over sensitive documents relating to the role Britain played in the abduction of terror suspects.

Straw was a key member of the New Labour movement, which swept to office in 1997. He was a highly respected cabinet minister until the party lost power in 2010.

He was foreign secretary and home secretary under Tony Blair’s leadership, and was leader of the Commons and justice secretary in Gordon Brown’s cabinet.

Since the 2010 election, he has been an active backbencher. But his star waned somewhat over his prominent role, as foreign secretary, in taking Britain to war in Iraq in 2003.

He described the decisions in that period as “the most difficult and momentous” he had ever made and defended the resolution of the government in which he served to go to war “on the basis of the information that was available at the time”.

Powered by article was written by Kevin Rawlinson, for on Monday 23rd February 2015 01.45 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010