13 Oct 2011

How about Rifkind to replace Fox?

Jon Craig of Sky News had a blog giving his runners and riders if Liam Fox is forced to resign as Defence Secretary.

His list included three Cabinet members – Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary; Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary; and Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary.

From outside the Cabinet Jon lists the welfare minister Chris Grayling (who was Liam Fox’s campaign manager in the 2005 leadership election), and his friend from TV days, the immigration minister, Damian Green (a founder member of Channel 4 News).  Both are reckoned to have done well as ministers, having annoyed Cameron in the past.  And he also suggests David Davis, a former TA officer – he would have the advantage of not requiring a reshuffle of other ministers.

Let me put forward another name from outside current ministerial ranks which was suggested to me today – the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who has served as Defence Secretary before – from 1992-95, under John Major.

Sir Malcolm, you may note, was the first Conservative MP to get up and support Liam Fox when the Defence Secretary made his statement in the Commons on Monday.

He was also one of only four ministers to serve as ministers throughout the 18 years of Thatcher and Major (Ken Clarke, Patrick Mayhew and Lynda Chalker were the others), and he would relish the chance of another job back in government.

And David Cameron has shown before that he likes bringing back ‘golden oldies’ – like Ken Clarke, Sir George Young and Lord (David) Howell.  Rifkind, though, is somewhat younger than that trio – just 65.

It might only be a temporary appointment, but would mean that David Cameron could hold off holding a proper government reshuffle until he wants to do it, which is said to be next spring.

Follow Michael Crick on Twitter @MichaelLCrick