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If uncivil servants are out to kill Cock Robin he hasn't got a prayer.

No doubt Gaynor Regan is very much in love with new husband, Robin Cook.

But she's one of a rapidly diminishing number.

Only a year ago Foreign Secretary Cook was being hailed as one of the shooting stars of the incoming Labour Government.

He was the Left-winger whose brain power and political skill made him a potential Prime Minister if Tony Blair fell under the Downing Street bus.

But the heady days when Robin was cock of the walk seem an eternity ago.

The prickly, arrogant Cook is looking distinctly shop-soiled as he is again embroiled in a scandal that threatens to bring him down. And his change of fortune is so sudden that insiders are asking:

Is he really just accident-prone, or are Foreign Office mandarins out to knife him?

For among many of them, Rantin' Rovin' Robin is about as popular as a fly on the after-dinner Stilton.

It all goes back to his robust investigation into the arms-to-Iraq affair when the Tories were severely bruised by his analytical skills.

Cook's attack was so well thought-out, his charge that the Tories - and Whitehall - misled the nation over their arms dealing with Saddam Hussein stuck fast.

The "Sir Humphrey" pin-striped brigade didn't like it one bit, and when Cook became Foreign Secretary their irritation escalated to fury.

Within days of taking over at the chandelier F O, he announced that Britain would henceforth have an "ethical" foreign policy.

It was as if Cook had openly accused the Eton and Oxbridge-dominated FO of immorality.

And when our bearded wonder told the mandarins to get a grip and do more of the graft themselves, they almost choked on their port.

He would be too busy coping with global issues to worry if our man in St Helena should have a new plumed hat.

"Don't fill my red boxes with trivia. Deal with it yourselves," he told them.

The bowler-hatted brigade let it be known he would have to be cut down to size. Then things began to go seriously wrong for Cook of the FO.

His affair with Gaynor and the break-up of his marriage were splashed over the media for weeks.

FO observers reckon the uncovering of the affair was no accident.

Britain's intelligence men go over the secret lives of new Cabinet ministers with a fine- tooth comb.

Strange that a photographer happened to spot Mr Cook feeding the parking meter alongside Ms Regan's car.

Then came the insider leak about the sacking of his diary secretary Anne Bullen and his attempt to get Gaynor her job.

Soon attention switched to India, where Cook outraged India's leaders with a diatribe on the future of Kashmir. Did none of the FO's many India experts warn their boss that this was the one topic to steer clear of?

Next it was Israel, where he became involved in a near-riot on an ill- advised visit to a Jewish settlement on Arab land.

The right-wing Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu promptly ditched dinner with Cook.

The latest and most serious debacle centres on FO involvement in a sanctions- busting arms deal in the West African republic of Sierra Leone.

Cook says no-one told him of his department's involvement. And he has allowed junior minister Tony Lloyd to become the sacrificial lamb - to the disgust of colleagues.

Throughout all his troubles, Tony Blair has stood by him saying he is an "excellent" Foreign Secretary.

But now all bets are off as far as horse-racing fan Cook's future is concerned.

How ironic if the man who doesn't like mountains of paper in his red boxes was brought down because his advisers followed instructions, and didn't bother him with details of what was really happening in Sierra Leone.

And if Robin Cook hasn't got troubles enough, a pounds 100,000 deal has just been signed for a bombshell warts-and-all book...

By his former wife Margaret.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Macleod, Angus
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 10, 1998
Words:648
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