The bad habit that the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme has of inviting guests to discuss one subject and then switching to another without notice was in evidence again this week when the former Conservative minister Malcolm Rifkind was interviewed about his decision to support Kenneth Clarke rather than Duncan Smith in the Conservative Party's leadership election. After he had given his reasons for his decision the interviewer asked Mr Rifkind whether he considered himself a good judge of people and, before he could answer, reminded him that he had publicly supported Jeffrey Archer as candidate for the mayoralty of London. It was a cheap shot of the kind that the Today programme should be capable of resisting. If from now on the validity of every statement about policy and personality in British public life is going to be tested by reference to whether the person making it once accepted a glass of Krug from Archer, politics in Britain are going to become very boring and unproductive. What Malcolm Rifkind had to say about the leadership was interesting and important. He acknowledged that he had his differences with Mr Clarke over Europe but said that the new leader must be credible as an alternative Prime Minister in the eyes of both the party and the wider electorate. The party needs a leader who has national stature and a warm and effective rapport with the British public. Kenneth Clarke is that man. The point was well made. No one could imagine William Hague walking through the door of No 10 Downing Street. Is it any easier to see Duncan Smith doing it? But Kenneth Clarke would look completely at home.
Will whaling resume?
In recent years one of the major international successes in the conservation of endangered species has been the ban on whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. A majority of the 38 members of the Commission have in the past overcome Icelandic, Japanese and Norwegian objections to the ban and as a result several species of whale are now recovering from near extinction. However, at the 53rd annual meeting of the Commission, taking place in London this week, the three pro-whaling countries have mounted a campaign to lift the ban and enable them to restart large scale commercial activities. It is only fair to acknowledge that each of these three countries has strong traditional links with whaling and believes that the other members of the Commission have been unduly influenced by the conservation lobby whose facts they dispute. However their tactics are annoying most of the other members: Iceland re-joined the Commission only last month after resigning in 1992 and now says there should be an opt-out clause in any resolution on a continuation of the ban so that it could resume whaling at any time; Japan is supporting Iceland and also recruiting new members of the Commission - mostly small nations which have been promised Japanese development aid in return for their votes. Australia, Argentina, Britain, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States are leaders among the countries which want to retain the ban which will come up for confirmation later this week.
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