Malcolm Rifkind was born in Edinburgh in 1946. He was educated at George Watson's College and Edinburgh University where he studied law before taking a postgraduate degree in political science. From 1967 to 1968 he was an Assistant Lecturer at University College of Rhodesia in Salisbury (now Harare). In 1969, he was called to the Bar in Britain and practiced as an Advocate until 1979. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1985. In 1974 he was elected as MP for Pentlands and represented that constituency until 1997. Sir Malcolm was appointed to the Front Bench in 1975 but resigned over devolution in 1977.
In 1979, when the Conservatives were returned to power under Margaret Thatcher, he was appointed a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at first in the Scottish Office and then, at the time of the Falklands War, he was transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, being promoted to Minister of State in 1983. He became a member of the Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1990 he became Secretary of State for Transport and in 1992 Secretary of State for Defence. From 1995-97 he was Foreign Secretary.
Sir Malcolm was one of only five ministers to serve for 18 years, throughout the whole Prime Ministerships of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. This was the longest, uninterrupted, ministerial service in the United Kingdom since Lord Palmerston in the early 19th century.
In 1997 he was knighted in recognition of his public service. He has served on the Court of Edinburgh University, was President of the Edinburgh University Development Trust and has been an Honorary Colonel in the Reserve Forces. He is a member of the Queen's Bodyguard, the Royal Company of Archers. Sir Malcolm was re-elected as a Member of Parliament in May 2005 for Kensington and Chelsea. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Kensington in May 2010 and remained in Parliament until 2015.
He served as UK representative on the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group 2010-2011 and as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which provides oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies, MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, from 2010 until 2015. He was a member of the OSCE’s Eminent Persons Group, which reported on relations between Russia and the West. He also serves on the Board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC. He has been appointed a Visiting Professor at King’s College, London and is a Senior Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).