Angry wife defends Cook

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The Independent Online
THE estranged wife of Robin Cook has defended the Foreign Secretary as the row over their marriage break-up threatened new damage to his political career.

Margaret Cook's intervention came as it emerged that Mr Cook's new partner, Gaynor Regan, has moved into his official residence and attended Foreign Office functions.

However, Mr and Mrs Cookdenied claims that the Foreign Secretary has privately told his estranged wife that he may resign because of the publicity surrounding his marriage break-up.

Mrs Cook, who is due to appear on television today to talk about the background to the disintegration of their marriage, attacked reporting of her views.

She said a conversation she had with journalist Linda McDougall, wife of Great Grimsby Labour MP Austin Mitchell, which sparked publicity over the affair, was intended to be private.

Mrs Cook said: "The interview which appeared in the Times was a private conversation over four months ago and was not intended by me to be made public."

While not denying the substance of what she was reported as saying, she was angry that the comments had been reported.

She said: "The subject matter for the book, Westminster Women, which I expected to supply related to the problem of co-ordinating the roles of professional wives and mothers will be addressed in my [televised] interview on Sunday, 11 January.

"The timing of the revelations is due to the imminent publication of the book and not any wish on my part to return to the marriage and its ending, which are now past," she told the Observer.

Ms McDougall denied breaking confidences, insisting Mrs Cook knew she was being interviewed for a book and was shown the original material days after the interview, though her request to see the final version was turned down. Ann Widdecombe, former Home Office minister and Tory MP for Maidstone and the Weald, said of Mr Cook's predicament: "I do not comment on people's personal lives, but I cannot resist observing that when our ministers had similar difficulties the Labour Party were relentless in their pursuit."

Mr Cook's aides confirmed last night that Ms Regan has moved into his official residence in the capital, and attended functions. She has not made overseas trips as yet, but may do in time.