It’s hard to believe it’s nearly ten years since the death of Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary who was also Leader of the House until his resignation in 2003 over the Iraq War. He was a politician of principle and authority, and his absence from the political scene remains sharp: particularly as Labour seeks a new leader who can reconcile the principles of the movement with winning power. So we’re proud to be publishing an intimate portrait of him by John Williams, who was at his side through three dramatic and turbulent years as Robin struggled to overcome the disaster of his first year as Foreign Secretary and show that wielding power effectively and sticking to your principles can de done – but is never easy.
Robin Cook: Principles and Power draws on John’s notes made while he worked as Robin’s chief press spokesman, and have all the vivid terseness you’d expect from a senior journalist, for John Williams was drafted in from being Political Editor at the Daily Mirror to deal with the media storm surrounding the break-up of Robin Cook’s first marriage. But those passages are set within a contemporary narrative that explains the context and reflects on how many of those same tensions – openness and media management, ethics and pragmatism, and the egos and personality clashes of senior politicians, remain valid today. It also includes some of Robin’s own views on Europe and on Britishness and multiculturalism that remain powerful and deeply relevant to contemporary politics.
The picture that emerges of Robin Cook is of a man with faults, but whose intellectual powers and heart-felt commitment to a cause made him a politician feared by his opponents and respected by his rivals, and whose legacy may yet prove to be more long-lasting than that of his contemporaries, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.