Skip to main content

"I may not have succeeded.."

I met Robin Cook, the former British Foreign Secretary, a few times over the course of his life.

The first time was while I was campaigning with Malcolm Bruce, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the 1992 election. During that campaign there were several set piece debates involving the four leaders, Malcolm, Ian Lang- the then Conservative Secretary of State- Donald Dewar for Labour and Alex Salmond of the SNP. Over the course of the campaign we grew quite friendly with "the opposition". Occasionally one or another of the leaders might be substituted, depending on commitments elsewhere, and indeed in Lanark, for a BBC hustings, Robin Cook turned up in place of Donald Dewar.

Where Dewar was gregarious and warm, Cook was watchful, suspicious even. He sat alone in the green room checking out the "Racing Post" and gathering his thoughts. He struck me then as a solitary figure- quite unlike the cheerful and joke-cracking Dewar.

Through the years that passed, that initial judgement- that he was an intense, driven and solitary man- did not much change. Then, as it turned out less than three weeks before his death, I was present at a small and private reception at the Estonian Embassy in order to see him being presented with one of Estonia's highest decorations: the Order of Terra Mariana.

This Robin Cook was much mellowed. It was as though the experience of his second marriage and the principled stand he had taken against the war in Iraq had liberated him. One no longer had a sense of caution, of prickliness, but of a man who was comfortable inside his skin. While I had respected his stance, he had hitherto seemed admirable perhaps, but not likable. That day, he was charming, thoughtful and wise.

His sudden death a few days later came as a real shock.

On the day that George W. Bush announces a further "surge" in the prosecution of the bloody war of attrition that Iraq has become, it seems somehow appropriate that Robin Cook's epitaph has been published:

"I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war"

I now think, what might things have been like, if Robin Cook had lived. For all his faults, he was a man of principle and at the end a man of honour.

Alas, too late, the Statesman awoke and he is sorely missed now.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I was in Bosnia when Robin Cook died. It was significant that a Bosnian who I was talking to on a bus told me how sad he was at Cook's death.

Of course Cook was Foreign Secretary when resolute action was taken to stop Milosevic's aggression in Kosova. If only he had been in government when multi-ethnic Bosnia was attacked by extreme nationalists (supported by Milosevic and Tudjman).
Cicero said…
Indeed. The British role in Bosnia including at Srebrenica can be put down as one of the darkest pahses of British foreign policy. The personal profits that Douglas Hurd and Dame Pauline Neville Jone made from the transactions that NatWest markets made with Milosevic are little short of a scandal.

Popular posts from this blog

Concert and Blues

Tallinn is full tonight... Big concerts on at the Song field The Weeknd and Bonnie Tyler (!). The place is buzzing and some sixty thousand concert goers have booked every bed for thirty miles around Tallinn. It should be a busy high summer, but it isn´t. Tourism is down sharply overall. Only 70 cruise ships calling this season, versus over 300 before Ukraine. Since no one goes to St Pete, demand has fallen, and of course people think that Estonia is not safe. We are tired. The economy is still under big pressure, and the fall of tourism is a significant part of that. The credit rating for Estonia has been downgraded as the government struggles with spending. The summer has been a little gloomy, and soon the long and slow autumn will drift into the dark of the year. Yesterday I met with more refugees: the usual horrible stories, the usual tears. I try to make myself immune, but I can´t. These people are wounded in spirit, carrying their grief in a terrible cradling. I try to project hop

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo

KamiKwasi brings an end to the illusion of Tory economic competence

After a long time, Politics seems to be getting interesting again, so I thought it might be time to restart my blog. With regard to this weeks mini budget, as with all budgets, there are two aspects: the economic and the political. The economic rationale for this package is questionable at best. The problems of the UK economy are structural. Productivity and investment are weak, infrastructure is under-invested and decaying. Small businesses are going to the wall and despite entrepreneurship being relatively strong in Britain, self-employment is increasingly unattractive. Red tape since Brexit has led to a significant fall in exports and the damage has been disproportionately on small businesses. Literally none of these problems are being addressed by this package. Even if the package were to stimulate some kind of short term consumption-led growth boom, this is unlikely to be sustainable, not least because what is being added on the fiscal side will be need to be offset, to a great de