* The death of Robin Cook deprives Britain and his party of an intellect unmatched in Westminster. Sadly, the book he was planning will remain unwritten. While Point of Departure, in 2003, dealt with the Blair government up to the Iraq adventure, his new project was to examine the changing face of democracy in Britain. Cook wanted to explore how the media and soundbite changed politics, how television has killed real debate, and a few cynical pundits made us suspicious of all MPs. Doubtless the book, for which only an outline exists, would have ruffled innumerable feathers.
* Better late than never: aged 101, Edward Upward has been awarded the Royal Society of Literature's Benson Medal, in recognition of a lifetime's service to literature. Upward was the inspirational "fourth man" in the group that also boasted Auden, Isherwood and Spender. He was, like them but more durably, radicalised by the 1930s. Together, Upward and Isherwood invented the surreal imaginary world of "Mortmere", as featured in the former's The Railway Accident and the latter's Lions and Shadows. His autobiographical trilogy of novels, The Spiral Ascent, shows why he moved left and stayed there. More recent work, which includes memorable short stories, has been published by Enitharmon Press. Previous recipients of the medal include Tolkien, Burgess and Strachey.Reuse content