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Robin Cook

Robin Cook

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Robert Finlayson Cook was a British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, who was the Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 (MP) for Livingston
Livingston (UK Parliament constituency)
Livingston is a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to which it returns one Member of Parliament . Elections are held using the first-past-the-post voting system....

 from 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 until his death, and notably served in the Cabinet
Blair Ministry
Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for three successive parliamentary terms from 1997-2007. His Cabinet was reshuffled for each new parliament as well as changed during the three periods.-Formation:...

 as Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

 from 1997
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

 to 2001
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

.

He studied at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 before becoming a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Edinburgh Central
Edinburgh Central (Scottish Parliament constituency)
Edinburgh Central is a constituency of the Scottish Parliament . It elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament by the plurality method of election...

 in 1974. In parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 he was noted for his debating ability which saw his rise through the political ranks and ultimately to the Cabinet
Blair Ministry
Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for three successive parliamentary terms from 1997-2007. His Cabinet was reshuffled for each new parliament as well as changed during the three periods.-Formation:...

.

He resigned
Resignation
A resignation is the formal act of giving up or quitting one's office or position. It can also refer to the act of admitting defeat in a game like chess, indicated by the resigning player declaring "I resign", turning his king on its side, extending his hand, or stopping the chess clock...

 from his positions as Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

 and Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

 on 17 March 2003 in protest against the invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. At the time of his death, he was President of the Foreign Policy Centre
Foreign Policy Centre
The Foreign Policy Centre is a British think tank specialising in foreign policy. It was formed in 1998 and launched by Tony Blair with the aim of developing a "vision of a fair and rule-based world order". It is pro-European. It has its origins on the centre-left of British politics, but works...

 and a vice-president of the America All Party Parliamentary Group
America All Party Parliamentary Group
The America All Party Parliamentary Group is a cross-party group consisting of members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, whose purpose is 'to prompt friendly relations and mutual understanding between members of the United States Congress and Members of Parliament; to arrange for the...

 and the Global Security and Non-Proliferation All Party Parliamentary Group.

Early life


Robin Cook was born in the County Hospital, Bellshill
Bellshill
Bellshill is a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, 10 miles south east of Glasgow city centre and 37 miles west of Edinburgh. Other nearby towns are Motherwell , Hamilton and Coatbridge . Since 1996, it has been situated in the Greater Glasgow metropolitan area...

, Scotland, the only son of Peter and Christina Cook (née Lynch). His father was a chemistry teacher who grew up in Fraserburgh
Fraserburgh
Fraserburgh is a town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland with a population recorded in the 2001 Census at 12,454 and estimated at 12,630 in 2006. It lies at the extreme northeast corner of Aberdeenshire, around north of Aberdeen, and north of Peterhead...

, and his grandfather was a miner before being blacklist
Blacklist
A blacklist is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition. As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize a person from a certain social circle...

ed for being involved in a strike.

Cook was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School
Aberdeen Grammar School
Aberdeen Grammar School, known to students as The Grammar is a state secondary school in the City of Aberdeen, Scotland. It is one of twelve secondary schools run by the Aberdeen City Council educational department...

 and, from 1960, the Royal High School in Edinburgh. At first, Cook intended to become a Church of Scotland minister, but lost his faith as he discovered politics. He joined the Labour Party in 1965 and became an Atheist. He remained so for the rest of his life. He then studied English Literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

 at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

, where he obtained an MA
Master of Arts (Scotland)
A Master of Arts in Scotland can refer to an undergraduate academic degree in humanities and social sciences awarded by the ancient universities of Scotland – the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh, while the University of...

 with Honours
British undergraduate degree classification
The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

 in English Literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

. He studied for a PhD
PHD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 on Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 and Victorian serial novels, supervised by John Sutherland, but gave it up in 1970.

After a period working as a schoolteacher in secondary schools, in 1971 Cook became a tutor–organiser of the Workers' Educational Association for Lothian, and a local councillor
Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

 in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

. He gave both up when elected a member of parliament on his 28th birthday, in February 1974.

Personal life


Cook also worked as a racing tipster in his spare time. He was introduced to horse racing by his wife, Margaret Katherine Whitmore, from Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, whom he met whilst at Edinburgh University. They married on 15 September 1969 at St Alban's Church, Westbury Park, Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and had two sons, Peter and Christopher, born in February 1973 and May 1974. Between 1991 and 1998 Cook wrote a weekly tipster's column for the Glasgow Herald newspaper.

Shortly after he became Foreign Secretary, Cook ended his marriage with Margaret, revealing that he had an extra-marital affair
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

 with one of his staff, Gaynor Regan. He announced his intentions to leave his wife and marry another woman via a press statement made at Heathrow on 2 August 1997. Cook was forced into a decision over his private life after a telephone conversation with Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell
Alastair John Campbell is a British journalist, broadcaster, political aide and author, best known for his work as Director of Communications and Strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003, having first started working for Blair in 1994...

 as he was about to go on holiday with his first wife. Campbell explained that the press was about to break the story of his affair with Regan. His estranged wife subsequently accused him of being insensitive during their marriage, of having had several extramarital affairs and alleged he was an alcoholic.

Robin married Gaynor in Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells (borough)
Tunbridge Wells is a local government district and borough in Kent, England. It takes its name from its main town, Royal Tunbridge Wells.The district was formed on 1 April 1974, by the merger of the municipal borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells along with Southborough urban district, Cranbrook Rural...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 on 9 April 1998, four weeks after his divorce was finalised.

Early years in Parliament


Cook unsuccessfully contested the Edinburgh North
Edinburgh North (UK Parliament constituency)
Edinburgh North was a burgh constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1918 to 1983. It elected one Member of Parliament using the first-past-the-post voting system.-Boundaries:...

 constituency in the 1970 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

, but was elected to the House of Commons at the February 1974 general election
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

 as Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Edinburgh Central
Edinburgh Central (UK Parliament constituency)
Edinburgh Central was a burgh constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1885 to 2005. It elected one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election....

, defeating George Foulkes
George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock
George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, PC is a British Labour Party life peer. He has been a member of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament...

 for nomination. When the constituency boundaries were revised for the 1983 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

, he transferred to the new Livingston
Livingston (UK Parliament constituency)
Livingston is a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to which it returns one Member of Parliament . Elections are held using the first-past-the-post voting system....

 constituency, beating Tony Benn
Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC is a British Labour Party politician and a former MP and Cabinet Minister.His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963...

 to the selection, which he represented until his death.

In parliament, he joined the left-wing Tribune Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Parliamentary Labour Party
In UK politics, the Parliamentary Labour Party is the parliamentary party of the Labour Party in Parliament: Labour MPs as a collective body....

 and frequently opposed the policies of the Wilson and Callaghan governments. He was an early supporter of constitutional and electoral reform
Electoral reform
Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:...

 (although he opposed devolution
Devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

 in the 1979 referendum, eventually coming out in favour on election night in 1983), and of efforts to gain more women MPs. He also supported unilateral nuclear disarmament
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated....

 and the abandoning of the Labour Party's euroscepticism
Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

 of the 1970s and 1980s. During his early years in parliament Cook championed several liberalising social measures, to mixed effect. He repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) introduced a private member's bill on divorce reform in Scotland, but succeeded in July 1980 — and after three years' trying—with an amendment to bring the Scottish law on homosexuality into line with that in England.

After Labour lost power in May 1979 Cook encouraged Michael Foot's bid to become party leader and joined his campaign committee. When Tony Benn challenged Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 for the party's deputy leadership in September 1981, Cook supported Healey.

In opposition


He became known as a brilliant parliamentary debater, and rose through the party ranks, becoming a frontbench spokesman in 1980, and reaching the Shadow Cabinet in 1987, as Shadow Social Services Secretary. He was campaign manager for Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

's successful 1983 bid to become leader of the Labour Party, and was one of the key figures in the modernisation of the Labour Party under Kinnock. He was Shadow Health Secretary
Shadow Secretary of State for Health
The Shadow Secretary of State for Health is an office within British politics held by a member of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The duty of the office holder is to scrutinise the actions of the government's Secretary of State for Health and develop alternative policies. The office holder is a...

 (1987–92) and Shadow Trade Secretary (1992–94), before taking on foreign affairs in 1994, the post he would become most identified with (Shadow Foreign Secretary 1994-97, Foreign Secretary 1997-2001).

In 1994, following the death of John Smith
John Smith (UK politician)
John Smith was a British Labour Party politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 until his sudden death from a heart attack in May 1994...

, he ruled himself out of contention for the Labour leadership, apparently on the grounds that he was "insufficiently attractive" to be an election winner, although two close family bereavements in the week in which the decision had to be made may have contributed.

Despite his role in modernising the party under Kinnock and Smith, Cook was said to be never fully committed to Blair's "New Labour" project, considering it a step too far to the right.

On 26 February 1996, following the publication of the Scott Report
Scott Report
The Scott Report was a judicial inquiry commissioned in 1992 after reports of arms sales in the 1980s to Iraq by British companies surfaced. The report was conducted by Sir Richard Scott, then a Lord Justice of Appeal. It was published in 1996...

 into the 'Arms-to-Iraq
Arms-to-Iraq
The Arms-to-Iraq affair concerned the uncovering of the government-endorsed sale of arms by British companies to Iraq, then under the rule of Saddam Hussein...

' affair, he made a famous speech in response to the then President of the Board of Trade Ian Lang
Ian Lang
Ian Bruce Lang, Baron Lang of Monkton PC is a former British Conservative MP for Galloway from 1979 to 1983 and for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale from 1983 to 1997....

 in which he said "this is not just a Government which does not know how to accept blame; it is a Government which knows no shame". His parliamentary performance on the occasion of the publication of the five-volume, 2,000-page Scott Report — which he claimed he was given just two hours to read before the relevant debate, thus giving him three seconds to read every page — was widely praised on both sides of the House as one of the best performances the Commons had seen in years, and one of Cook's finest hours. The government won the vote by a majority of one.

As Joint Chair (alongside Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 MP Robert Maclennan) of the Labour-Liberal Democrat Joint Consultative Committee on Constitutional Reform, Cook brokered the 'Cook-Maclennan Agreement' that laid the basis for the fundamental reshaping of the British constitution outlined in Labour's 1997 General Election manifesto. This led to legislation for major reforms including Scottish and Welsh devolution
Devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

, the Human Rights Act
Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000. Its aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights...

 and removing the majority of hereditary peers from the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

. Others have remained elusive so far, such as a referendum on the electoral system and further House of Lords reform. However, in 2011 voters in the United Kingdom were finally given the chance to have their say on replacing the first-past-the-post voting system with the Alternative Vote method in a referendum held on 5th May. On 6th May it was announced that any proposed move to the AV voting system had been rejected by the electorate by a margin of 67.9% to 32.1%. [See United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011 for full breakdown of results]

Foreign Secretary


With the election of a Labour government at the 1997 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

, Cook became Foreign Secretary. He was believed to have coveted the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

, but that job was reportedly promised by Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 to Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

. He announced, to much scepticism, his intention to add "an ethical dimension" to foreign policy.

His term as Foreign Secretary was marked by British interventions in Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

 and Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

. Both of these were controversial, the former because it was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council, and the latter because of allegations that the British company Sandline International
Sandline International
Sandline International was a private military company based in London, established in the early 1990s. It was involved in conflicts in Papua New Guinea in 1997 causing the Sandline affair, in 1998 in Sierra Leone and in Liberia in 2003 Sandline International was a private military company based...

 had supplied arms to supporters of the deposed president in contravention of a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 embargo. Cook was also embarrassed when his apparent offer to mediate in the dispute between India and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 over Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

 was rebuffed. The ethical dimension of his policies was subject to inevitable scrutiny, leading to criticism at times.

He is credited with having helped resolve the eight-year impasse
Impasse
A bargaining impasse occurs when the two sides negotiating an agreement are unable to reach an agreement and become deadlocked. An impasse is almost invariably mutually harmful, either as a result of direct action which may be taken such as a strike in employment negotiation or sanctions/military...

 over the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial
Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial
The Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial began on 3 May 2000, 11 years, 4 months and 13 days after the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988...

 by getting Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 to agree to hand over the two accused (Megrahi and Fhimah
Lamin Khalifah Fhimah
Lamin Khalifa Fhimah was a station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines at Luqa Airport, Malta. On 31 January 2001, he was found not guilty and acquitted of 270 counts of murder in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial by a panel of three Scottish judges sitting in a special court at Camp Zeist,...

) in 1999, for trial in the neutral venue of the Netherlands but according to Scots law
Scots law
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is considered a hybrid or mixed legal system as it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. With English law and Northern Irish law it forms the legal system of the United Kingdom; it shares with the two other systems some...

.

In March 1998, a diplomatic rift ensued with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 angrily cancelled a dinner with Cook, while Cook was visiting Israel and had demonstrated opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Leader of the House of Commons


After the 2001 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

 he was moved, against his wishes, from the Foreign Office to be Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

. This was widely seen as a demotion — although it is a Cabinet post, it is substantially less prestigious than the Foreign Office — and Cook nearly turned it down. In the event he accepted, and looking on the bright side welcomed the chance to spend more time on his favourite stage. According to The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, it was Blair's fears over political battles within the Cabinet over Europe, and especially the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

, which saw him unexpectedly demote the pro-European Cook.

As Leader of the House he was responsible for reforming the hours and practices of the Commons and for leading the debate on reform of the House of Lords. He also spoke for the Government during the controversy surrounding the membership of Commons Select Committees which arose in 2001, where Government whips were accused of pushing aside the outspoken committee chairs Gwyneth Dunwoody
Gwyneth Dunwoody
Gwyneth Patricia Dunwoody was a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Exeter from 1966 to 1970, and then for Crewe from 1974 to her death in 2008...

 and Donald Anderson
Donald Anderson, Baron Anderson of Swansea
Donald Anderson, Baron Anderson of Swansea, PC, DL , is a British Labour Party politician, who was a Member of Parliament for Swansea East from 1966 to 1970 and from 1974 to 2005....

. He was President of the Party of European Socialists
Party of European Socialists
The Party of European Socialists is a European political party led by Sergei Stanishev, former Prime Minister of Bulgaria. The PES comprises social-democratic national-level political parties primarily from Member state of the European Union, as well as other nations of the European continent. The...

 from May 2001 to April 2004.

In early 2003, during a live television appearance on BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 current affairs show Question Time, he was inadvertently referred to as "Robin Cock" by David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby is a British BBC TV commentator and a presenter of current affairs and political programmes, most notably the BBC's flagship political show Question Time, and more recently, art, architectural history and history series...

. Cook responded with attempted good humour with "Yes, David Bumblebee", and Dimbleby apologised twice on air for his slip. The episode also saw Cook in the uncomfortable position of defending the Government's stance over the impending invasion of Iraq, weeks before his resignation over the issue.

He documented his time as Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

 in a widely acclaimed book 'The Point of Departure', which discussed in diary form his efforts to reform the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 and to persuade his ministerial colleagues, including Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

, to distance the Labour Government from the foreign policy of the Bush administration
George W. Bush administration
The presidency of George W. Bush began on January 20, 2001, when he was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States of America. The oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush, George W...

. The former Political Editor of Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 News, Elinor Goodman
Elinor Goodman
Elinor Mary Goodman is a UK journalist, best known as Political Editor of Channel 4 News from 1988 to 2005. She was educated at the Manor House School, an independent school in Surrey, England....

 called the book 'the best insight yet into the workings of the Blair cabinet', whilst the former Editor of The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, Will Hutton
Will Hutton
William Nicolas Hutton is an English writer, weekly columnist and former editor-in-chief for The Observer. He is currently Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and Chair of the Big Innovation Centre , an initiative from The Work Foundation , having been Chief Executive of The Work Foundation from...

, called it 'the political book of the year - a lucid and compelling insider's account of the two years that define the Blair Prime Ministership'.

Resignation over Iraq war


In early 2003 he was reported to be one of the cabinet's chief opponents of military action against Iraq, and on 17 March he resigned from the Cabinet. In a statement giving his reasons for resigning he said, "I can't accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support." He also praised Blair's "heroic efforts" in pushing for the so-called second resolution regarding the Iraq disarmament crisis
Iraq disarmament crisis
The issue of Iraq's disarmament reached a crisis in 2002-2003, when U.S. President George W. Bush demanded a complete end to what he alleged was Iraqi production of weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq comply with UN Resolutions requiring UN weapons inspectors unfettered access to areas those...

. Cook's resignation speech in the House of Commons, received with an unprecedented standing ovation by fellow MPs, was described by the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Andrew Marr
Andrew Marr
Andrew William Stevenson Marr is a Scottish journalist and political commentator. He edited The Independent for two years until May 1998, and was political editor of BBC News from 2000 until 2005....

 as "without doubt one of the most effective, brilliant, resignation speeches in modern British politics." Most unusually for the British parliament, Cook's speech was met with growing applause from all sides of the House (beginning with Labour and Liberal Democrat critics of the war), and from the public gallery. According to The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

s obituary, that was the first speech ever to receive a standing ovation in the history of the House.

Outside the government


After his 2003 resignation from the Cabinet, Cook remained an active backbench
Backbencher
In Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a Member of Parliament or a legislator who does not hold governmental office and is not a Front Bench spokesperson in the Opposition...

 Member of Parliament until his death. After leaving the Government, Cook was a leading analyst of the decision to go to war in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which was later relevant during the Hutton
Hutton Inquiry
The Hutton Inquiry was a 2003 judicial inquiry in the UK chaired by Lord Hutton, who was appointed by the Labour government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, a biological warfare expert and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee...

 and Butler
Butler Review
On February 3, 2004, the British Government announced an inquiry into the intelligence relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction which played a key part in the Government's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. A similar investigation was set up in the USA...

 inquiries. He was sceptical of the proposals contained in the Government's Higher Education Bill
Higher Education Act 2004
The Higher Education Act 2004 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which introduced several changes to the higher education system in the United Kingdom, the most important and controversial being a major change to the funding of universities, and the operation of tuition fees, which...

, and abstained on its Second Reading. He also took strong positions in favour of both the proposed European Constitution, and a majority-elected House of Lords
Elect the Lords
Elect The Lords is a campaign established in September 2004 by the New Politics Network and Charter88 calling for the United Kingdom House of Lords to be replaced by a predominantly elected upper house...

, about which he said (whilst Leader of the Commons), "I do not see how [the House of Lords] can be a democratic second Chamber if it is also an election-free zone".

In the years after his exit from the Foreign Office, and particularly since his resignation from the Cabinet, Cook made up with Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 after decades of personal animosity — an unlikely reconciliation after a mediation attempt by Frank Dobson
Frank Dobson
Frank Gordon Dobson, is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Holborn and St. Pancras since 1979...

 in the early 1990s had seen Dobson conclude (to John Smith) "You're right. They hate each other." Cook and Brown focused on their common political ground, discussing how to firmly entrench progressive politics after the exit of Tony Blair. Chris Smith
Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury
Christopher "Chris" Robert Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury PC is a British Labour Party politician, and a former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister...

 said in 2005 that in recent years Cook had been setting out a vision of "libertarian, democratic socialism that was beginning to break the sometimes sterile boundaries of 'old' and 'New' Labour labels.". With Blair's popularity waning, Cook campaigned vigorously in the run-up to the 2005 general election to persuade Labour doubters to remain with the party.

In a column for the Guardian four weeks before his death, Cook caused a stir when he described Al-Qaeda as a product of a western intelligence:

Death


Some commentators and senior politicians said that Cook seemed destined for a senior Cabinet post under a Brown premiership.

In early August 2005, Cook and his wife, Gaynor, took a two-week holiday in the Highlands
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

 of Scotland. At around 2:20 pm, on 6 August 2005, whilst walking down Ben Stack
Ben Stack
Ben Stack is a mountain located in northern Scotland, in the county of Sutherland. It is 721 metres high. It is located southeast of Laxford Bridge and northwest of Loch More and the town of Lairg, along the A838 road, and just west of Loch Stack across the A838.It is regarded as a moderately...

 in Sutherland
Sutherland
Sutherland is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic administrative county of Scotland. It is now within the Highland local government area. In Gaelic the area is referred to according to its traditional areas: Dùthaich 'IcAoidh , Asainte , and Cataibh...

, Scotland, Cook suddenly suffered a severe heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

, collapsed and lost consciousness. A helicopter containing paramedics arrived 30 minutes after a 999 call
999 (emergency telephone number)
999 is an official emergency telephone number in a number of countries which allows the caller to contact emergency services for urgent assistance....

 was made. Cook then was flown to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness
Inverness
Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands. It is the administrative centre for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland...

. Gaynor did not get in the helicopter, and was left to walk down the mountain. Despite efforts made by the medical team to revive Cook in the helicopter, he was already beyond recovery, and at 4:05pm, minutes after arrival at the hospital, was pronounced dead. Two days later, a post mortem revealed that Cook died of hypertensive heart disease
Hypertensive heart disease
Hypertensive heart disease is any of a number of complications of arterial hypertension that affects the heart.-Symptoms:* Fatigue* Cardiomegaly* Irregular pulse* Swelling of feet* Weight gain* Nausea* Shortness of breath...

.

A funeral
Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...

 service was held on 12 August 2005, at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

, even though Cook had been an atheist. Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 gave the eulogy
Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

, and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer
Joschka Fischer
Joseph Martin "Joschka" Fischer is a German politician of the Alliance '90/The Greens. He served as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany in the cabinet of Gerhard Schröder from 1998 to 2005...

 was one of the guests. British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

, who was on holiday at the time, did not attend. In his speech at the funeral, Cook's friend, the racing pundit John McCririck
John McCririck
John McCririck is an English television horse racing pundit. He is notable not only for his racing opinions but also for his old-fashioned style of dress and mannerisms...

, criticised Blair for not attending.

A later memorial service at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, on 5 December 2005, included a reading by Tony Blair and warm tributes by Gordon Brown and Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Korbelová Albright is the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, and was unanimously confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote of 99–0...

. On 29 September 2005, Cook's friend and election agent since 1983, Jim Devine
Jim Devine
James "Jim" Devine is a former British Member of Parliament, having been the Labour Party member for Livingston from 2005 until 2010 and Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party between 1994-95....

, won the resulting by-election with a reduced majority.

In January 2007, a headstone was erected in The Grange, Edinburgh
The Grange, Edinburgh
The Grange is a suburb of Edinburgh, about one and a half miles south of the city centre, with Morningside and Greenhill to the west and Newington to the east. It is a conservation area characterised by large late Victorian stone-built villas, often with very large gardens...

 Cemetery, where Cook is buried, bearing the epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

: "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of parliament to decide on war." It is a reference to Cook's strong opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the words were reportedly chosen by his widow and two sons from his previous marriage, Chris and Peter.

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