Monday, August 08, 2005

A Man of Principle

I was extremely saddened by the death of British Labour MP Robin Cook over the weekend.

There are some very good obituaries on the Guardian site here and here.

Cook was someone I have always admired, and never more so than during his principled opposition to Britain's invovlement in the Iraq war. While many in British Labour were prepared to vocally voice their opposition to that illegal war, Cook was willing to make a moral stand on the issue and resigned his cabinet position when the decision was made by the government to participate.

For a man who had build a formidable career over a quarter of a century in the House of Commons, that was a sacrifice of considerable proportions.

More broadly, Cook advocated for a morals based foreign policy which would see Labour's historical mission to uplift the poor and downtrodden domestically, applied to Britain's international dealings. A Gordon Brown-led Labour government may have seen him re-elevated to high office in government again to put these principles into action, but sadly that cannot happen.

The British Labour Party is far the poorer for this loss.

4 comments:

Too Right said...

For a man who took such a principled stance on morality, he was a paradox. Having an affair with his secretary does not a principled man make. Then to add to the paradox, he was called by a reporter while on the way to the airport for a holiday with his then wife. Threatened by the reporter with exposing the affair, the principled one there and then announced to his astonished wife that he was ending their marriage and now not going on holiday with her....an extraordinary man. His wife was a Doctor and I hazard a person of far greater moral fibre than Cookie.

Mikey, I think you'll find Cookie's morality was to inhabit the anti-Blair stage he strutted. Cookie was desperate to be PM and thought that cosying up to the Left was his best chance.

Cheezy said...

Nice words, Michael. Spot on.

But, oops, a lot of what Mr Too Right has said is incorrect, unfortunately. What a surprise...

Factual correction #1: For many years, Cook has had no desire to be PM. If he did, he would have been an agitator like Gordon Brown. There was no 'disaffected wing' of the Labour Party which had Robin Cook as its leader. To quote today's editorial in The Independent newspaper: "If Cook had a political flaw it's that he was a loner. Unlike his rival, Brown, he was incapable of leading a party within a party. He formed no cabal of likeminded people around him. Some might say that this reluctance to plot was a virtue but it means he left no movement behind him and the danger is that, after the tributes are said, he will be forgotten".

Factual correction #2: He wasn't called by a reporter in the VIP lounge of Heathrow, he was actually called by Alistair Campbell and told the tabloids were about the run the story, so now might be a good time to break it to his wife.

As far as the affair itself goes -"Let he who is without sin", Too Right...We can't all be as pure as the likes of you... or Graeme Capill... or whoever ;-)

Come to think of it, we don't expect the pro-war-guns-n-ammo brigade to like Robin Cook. In fact, we sort of prefer it if you don't - it makes more sense that way. But we kindly ask that you get your facts right about him, especially seeing as the poor fella isn't even cold yet.

As for me, I reckon he was a great orator, he has been proved conclusively right in all of the things he stated about the invasion of Iraq - and yes - he was "a political heavyweight and a man of political integrity who still had so much to offer" - his first wife has just come out and said that last bit...

Anonymous said...

"Cookie was desperate to be PM and thought that cosying up to the Left was his best chance".

Is it the last five minutes you've been studying British politics, Too Right, or the last ten?

Cook always was of the Left! - it was not a case of 'cosying up' to them, as you put it.
True, he was not of the so-called 'hard' - more Marxist/Socialist - left - but of the 'soft' left, which always, however, had international relations concerns truly at heart eg, nuclear disarmament.

Sock Thief said...

He did indeed make a principled stand against the war, just as many on the Left made a principled stand for the war. There were good people on both sides of that debate.