First on stage…Sir Malcolm Rifkind

First on stage…Sir Malcolm Rifkind

    Can the former Foreign Secretary make the speech his life?

May is a long time ago and it’s probably been forgotten that in the early phases of this seemingly never-ending contest Sir Malcom Rifkind was joint second favourite at just 9/1.

But it was always going to be hard for the Foreign Secretary in the last Tory Government who lost his seat in 1997. It took him eight years to get back to Westminster and on his return he faced the daunting challenge of building up networks and alliances within the parliamentary party- a large part of which did not know him and were unaware of his talents.

Not for Sir Malcolm being part of the “Notting Hill” younger generation Tories which is playing a key role supporting the David Cameron campaign or the party-wide links that Liam Fox built up as Chairman

Not for Sir Malcolm being there like Ken Clarke during two full terms in opposition continuing to remind people of his “big beast status”.

Not for Sir Malcolm having a team like David Davis’s which had its origins in the Maastricht whips’ office of the mid-90s. As Peter Oborne describes it in the Spectator this week Davis’s team then “… enjoyed a never understated aura of physical intimidation, and that has not gone away. Almost any method that came to hand — bribery, intimidation, though rarely charm — was brought to bear.”

So Rifkind has all the problems of being a new boy and an old boy at the same time. The result is that he has hardly any MPs declaring for him and his only hope is his Blackpool conference spot.

    Can he make the speech of a life-time this morning that resonates with delegates and sends a message across the membership that he can lead the party to bring down Labour?

Of all the candidates he’s certainly capable of making the “speech of the conference”, and he’s probably going to be helped by the extra attention of being first up. But will a great speech be enough? No other contenders are due at the rostrum until tomorrow’s appearances by Ken Clarke and David Cameron. But after Wednesday when it’ll be the turn of David Davis and Liam Fox will the party still remember Sir Malcolm’s contribution?

Although it’s hard to see him progressing do not rule it out. Anything could happen at this conference.

Tory leadership betting prices

  • Conventional bookmakers best price: Davis 1/2: Clarke 5/2: Cameron 10/1: Fox 10/1: Rifkind 33/1
  • Betfair betting exchange: Davis 0.54/1: Clark 3.6/1: Cameron 9/1: Fox 11.5/1: Rifkind 59/1
  • BinaryBet spread market. Davis 60-67: Clarke 20-26: Cameron 5-9 Fox 5-9: Rifkind 1-3
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    Mike Smithson

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