Robin Cook was a Minister in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2003. For most of that time he was Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair. After the 2001 election he became Leader of the House of
Commons. He was one of the chief opponents of the Iraq war, resigning from the Cabinet on 17 March 2003, saying “I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support.” His resignation speech, which received an unprecedented standing ovation by fellow MPs, was described by Andrew Marr of the BBC as “without doubt one of the most effective, brilliant resignation speeches in modern British politics.” He remained an active backbencher until his death in 2005.
Robert Finlayson “Robin” Cook was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, on 28 February 1946. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and the Royal High School in Edinburgh. He joined the Labour Party in 1965, and graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature. He worked for some time as a secondary school teacher and then as tutor-organiser for the Workers’ Educational Association of Lothian. He became a Labour councillor in Edinburgh and was elected to Parliament in 1974. He married twice, and had two children by his first marriage, which ended in divorce. He died of a heart attack in August 2005. His epitaph on his gravestone reads “I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of parliament to decide on war.”
1. Edinburgh Southside Heritage Group, https://sites.google.com/site/southsideheritagegroup/notable-graves/grange-graveyard/robin-cook
2. The Guardian, 8 August 2005, http://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/aug/08/guardianobituaries.labour