Saturday, August 06, 2005

Robin Cook dead at 59

What it says on the tin. Christ. Quite a shock.

Cook was always regarded as one of the smartest of the Labour Party's big hitters but always lacked a personal following within the Commons, which was seen to put something of a damper on his ambitions.

For my part I thought he was mostly wrong in office (not that this is particularly a minority opinion, much of his pre-1997 promise was widely seen to evaporate once he actually got behind the controls - "The man with the ethical foreign policy and the unethical home affairs policy", as somebody in the defence community quipped a couple of years ago) and mostly wrong out of office. To his credit, when he decided to resign he did so and he went, in marked contrast to Clare Short (though the sight of him being given hearty congratulations by Frank Dobson after his speech in the Iraq debate still makes my eyeballs bleed). It may conceivably be that time bears out that he was correct in his actions. However, my personal view is that his post-war musings have been not merely wrong but dangerously wrong, most notably in his notion (shared by the Lib Dems) that come what may Anglo-American forces should be pulled out and replaced by UN troops that don't even exist on paper and would not emerge even were we to withdraw. That said, I saw him on This Week a few weeks ago and I thought he largely gave a nuanced (wrong, but nuanced) and honest performance.

All this said, he was one of the big beasts in the Westminster jungle, 59 is no age these days and his presence on the scene will be missed by most observers (dare I say it, comedy impressionists perhaps most of all). RIP.

UPDATE:

I've done Cook something of a disservice. I completely forgot his response to the Scott Report on the arms to Iraq scandal, which Michael White, the Guardian's political editor (and a minor league national treasure in his own right, bless 'im) was flagging up on BBC News 24. A genuinely inspired and skilful piece of work and perhaps one of the most important indvidual contributions on the floor of the Commons in recent(ish) political history.

13 Comments:

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But he seemed happy enough with the launching of a war against Serbia without UN sanction, blowing old wifies to bits on behalf of the Muslim terrorists of Kosovo.

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