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Tributes pour in for MP Cook

SMH News | August 8, 2005

By Patrick Hennessy, Adam Lusher and Peter Zimonjic

Robin Cook, the former British foreign secretary, has died after suffering a suspected heart attack while walking on a mountain in Scotland.

Mr Cook's second wife, Gaynor, was with him when he collapsed on Saturday afternoon near the summit of Ben Stack in Sutherland, police said.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, described Mr Cook as "an outstanding, extraordinary talent". Mr Blair, who is on a family holiday abroad, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Gaynor and all Robin's family. This news will be received with immense sadness, not just in Britain but in many parts of the world."

Mr Cook, 59, who resigned from the cabinet in March 2003 in protest against the Iraq war, was flown to a hospital in Inverness, where he died.

He was believed to have seriously injured himself in a fall after his collapse - unconfirmed reports said he had broken his neck - and was on the mountain for nearly half an hour before his rescuers reached him.

Guided by medical experts via telephone, they battled to revive him using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation equipment, before he was taken to hospital.

Mr Cook was on holiday with his wife in the Highlands having joked with friends at Westminster that he did not like warmer climates. He divorced his first wife, Margaret, in 1998, after his affair with Gaynor was revealed. He and Margaret had two sons.

He survived the scandal to play a prominent role in NATO's 1999 campaign to force Serbian troops out of Kosovo.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, paid tribute to Mr Cook as a "partner on a wide range of issues".

"Throughout a rich and varied life, Mr Cook displayed exceptional intellect, eloquence, vision and passion in the domestic and international arenas alike," a spokesman for Mr Annan said.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said Mr Cook "was a good friend of Australia … somebody who was important to Australia at a time when we needed help over [winning UN approval for a peace mission to] East Timor in 1999."

British Muslim leaders praised Mr Cook's opposition to the Iraq war and human rights activists lauded his commitment to international justice and control of the arms trade.

Many MPs in the ruling Labour Party had expected Mr Cook to make a dramatic return to front-line politics in the event of Gordon Brown taking over as prime minister. Mr Cook and Mr Brown were long-time political foes, but had recently effected a rapprochement.

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