The BBC has just allowed a former Conservative foreign secretary to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of being a danger to national security. But it failed to tell listeners that Malcolm Rifkind had left politics in disgrace.
Rifkind stood down as an MP in 2015 after Channel 4 exposed him offering ‘cash for access’ to what he thought were foreign companies. But the BBC clearly didn’t think that affected his credibility on matters of national security. Only a few hours after Rifkind appeared on BBC Newsnight to defend Boris Johnson from charges of lying to the public over the Salisbury poisonings, he was back, this time on the Today programme.
‘On the same side as the Russians’
Rifkind was keen to paint Corbyn as a Russian sympathiser. Asked by presenter Justin Webb whether Corbyn should be given intelligence briefings about the Salisbury poisonings, Rifkind replied:
I’m not so sure about that, frankly, because, you know, he’s already made up his mind, he’s already saying that he’s on the same side essentially as the Russians on this particular matter.
Pressed further as to whether Corbyn should be allowed to see the evidence if he asks for it, Rifkind said:
I don’t necessarily have a strong view on that because, frankly, Mr Corbyn’s rather doubtful in terms of the way he deals with issues of this kind.
“Useful access” to a foreign company
Webb failed to raise Rifkind’s own “doubtful” history during the interview. In February 2015, Channel 4 Dispatches secretly filmed Rifkind offering to use his position as an MP to arrange “useful access” in return for payment of at least £5,000 a day. He boasted to what he thought was a Chinese company:
I am involved with the World Economic Forum, Davos, and they have a number of specialist committees – one of which looks at nuclear security, nuclear weapons security. I was a defence minister so it’s an area that I have some interest in, so I have contacts in that area as well.
Rifkind was suspended from the Conservative Party and resigned as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. He called Channel 4‘s claims “contemptible” but nonetheless stood down at the general election a few months later. An enquiry [pdf, p47] by Ofcom (the UK broadcasting regulator) into the Dispatches programme found that Channel 4 had fairly represented Rifkind’s views.
Twitter users were quick to point out the irony of Rifkind accusing Corbyn of being untrustworthy:
The question NOT asked on @BBCr4today
“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, your own political career ended in disgrace, how do you dare say that intelligence which has been shared with 27 other countries should be withheld from the leader of a party which received 40% of the votes at the GE?”
— Tom London (@TomLondon6) April 6, 2018
Malcolm Rifkind, also an ex-foreign secretary, and chair of intelligence & security select committee, boasted to disguised journalists he could offer “useful access” to every British ambassador in world, because of his status.
Now *that's* what a 'security risk' looks like 💅
— Mrs Gee (@earthygirl01) April 6, 2018
Malcolm Rifkind? Discredited Malcolm Rifkind? Cash for access Malcolm Rifkind? This is who the BBC go to, not once but twice, for comments on #Salisbury They're just laughing at us now. #BBCBias #NotFitForPurpose
— Sue McCormick (@LadyBrainSueMcC) April 6, 2018
In 2015, as Chair of the sensitive House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, Malcolm Rifkind was caught in a sting offering his 'services' to the Chinese for cash.
Yet he claims Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security?#DoTheyThinkWeAreStupid
— Tom Pride (@ThomasPride) April 6, 2018
Is this the same Malcolm Rifkind who was willing to sell ministerial access to foreigners who considers Corbyn a security risk? #r4today
— p c (@hoddles10) April 6, 2018
I’m no Corbynite, but Malcolm Rifkind’s comments about Corbyn this morning were bordering on slanderous I would have thought. A walking talking Daily Express headline.
— Francis Denning (@francis_denning) April 6, 2018
Corbyn government makes Rifkind “tremble”
Webb asked Rifkind if he was suggesting that it could be dangerous to give Corbyn information about the Salisbury attacks. He replied:
I am saying that Mr Corbyn’s whole approach on matters of national security leave a huge gap to be desired, and the idea that somebody like that might one day be in Downing Street makes me tremble if I even thought it was serious.
And there you have it. A disgraced Conservative MP invited onto the BBC to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Welcome to BBC impartiality.
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