Former BBC political editor John Cole dies aged 85

Tributes paid to famed journalist who was the BBC’s political editor for majority of Thatcher years

The former BBC political editor, John Cole, has died aged 85 after a long illness.

The broadcaster, famed for his impartial approach and distinctive Ulster accent, spent 10 years with the BBC, after a lengthy career in newspapers.

Having been political editor through most of the Thatcher years, Cole reported on stories such as the Brighton bombing, the miners' strike and Falklands war, through to Margaret Thatcher’s resignation.

He died at his home in Surrey yesterday and is survived by his wife Madge, four sons and nine grandchildren.

His family said: “While many people will remember John for his journalism and broadcasting, for us he was the most loving, funny and devoted husband, father and grandfather.

“We will miss him terribly, but have so many memories of the tremendous happiness he has brought into our lives."

Tributes to the journalist have come from across politics and broadcasting.

David Cameron's official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the news and would send his condolences, of course, to Mr Cole's family and friends.

“He is someone who contributed so much to British political life.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband wrote on Twitter: “My generation grew up watching John Cole. He conveyed the drama and importance of politics. Many condolences to his family.”

The BBC's current political editor, Nick Robinson, said Cole's death was “sad news”. Writing on Twitter, he said: “The man I learnt so much from, the BBC's former political editor John Cole, has died. He shaped the way all in my trade do our jobs.”

Former Cabinet minister and chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten said: “John Cole was a hugely respected BBC political editor, whose absolute integrity and astute analysis, to say nothing of his distinctive delivery, defined political reporting in the '80s. My thoughts are with his family.”

Cole was born in Belfast in 1927 and started his career on the Belfast Telegraph in 1945 before joining The Guardian, where he worked as labour correspondent, news editor and eventually deputy editor.

In 1975 he moved to The Observer before joining the BBC in 1981.

He retired after the 1992 general election and wrote his memoirs, As It Seemed To Me, as well as a novel set in his native Northern Ireland.

In his memoirs, Cole described how an interview early in his career with then prime minister Clement Attlee inspired him to work in Westminster.

He went on to interview many of Westminster's biggest names and became a regular fixture outside Downing Street in the 1980s.