Top Five: Most Impressive Overseas Politicians

To mark the close of the Conservative Party conference, political editor Mark Leftly continued our series of 'Top Fives' by asking Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was foreign secretary under John Major, the most impressive overseas politicians he met during his years in Parliament:


1. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 1985-1993

“I was present at Gorbachev’s meeting with Thatcher that indirectly led to the end of the Cold War.”



2. Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa 1994-1999

“He had the most extraordinary charisma. I remember when he came into Downing Street and the whole staff formed two columns to welcome him in without being asked and John Major said that was this had happened in his time as prime minister.”



3. F.W. de Klerk, State President of South Africa 1989-1994

“He represented white South Africa in the referendum that ended apartheid.” 



4. Hussein bin Talal, King of Jordan 1952-99 

“You would expect someone very grand, but he had the most gentle manner – he was courteous and insisted on addressing everyone as sir. But he was also tough as old boots.”



5. Fidel Castro, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party 1961-2011

“I don't know if I admired him, but he was very impressive when I met him as a member of a delegation of MPs that met him in the late 1970s. He was wearing the most beautifully press battle fatigues and smoking a huge cigar that made a Churchill cigar look like a cigarillo.”


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