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Sir Malcolm Rifkind

RIFKIND, SIR MALCOLM (1946– ), British Conservative politician. Rifkind was born in Edinburgh, the son of a credit draper of Lithuanian origin. He was educated locally and graduated with a degree in law from Edinburgh University, where he was involved in politics, becoming chairman of the university Conservative Association in 1967. Called to the Bar in 1970 (he was later a Queen's Counsel), in the same year he was elected to Edinburgh Council and unsuccessfully contested the Parliamentary seat of Edinburgh Central. Elected to Parliament for Pentlands in 1974, he was appointed opposition front bench spokesman on Scottish Affairs in 1975. Having served on the Parliamentary committees dealing with foreign affairs, following the Conservative election victory in 1979 he served as minister for home affairs and the environment at the Scottish Office from 1979 to 1982 and Parliamentary undersecretary of state, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1983–86. In January 1986 he became the youngest member of the Cabinet and first Jewish secretary of state for Scotland. He held this office until he was appointed secretary of state for transport in 1990. In 1992–95 he was the first postwar Jewish secretary of state for defense since Emanuel *Shinwell. From 1995 to 1997 he served as foreign secretary, the first Jew to hold this post since 1931. Rifkind lost his seat in Parliament in the Labour landslide of 1997 and received a knighthood the same year. Subsequently he worked for the BHP oil company and, in 2004, was selected as the Tory candidate for the safe seat of Kensington and Chelsea. In public life he consistently maintained an interest in the affairs of Israel. He opposed the visit of PLO officials to London in 1975 and was honorary secretary of the Parliamentary group of Conservative Friends of Israel 1976–79. He was also an opponent of the 2003 Iraq war.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.