As diplomatic questions go, whether the Foreign Secretary should take his mistress with him on a diplomatic tour ranks as one of the trickier examples. With a visit to the White House, there would have been the difficult business over the canapes of whether to mention the President's own alleged extra-marital affairs.
Downing Street tried to damp down media interest in "Cook's tour" with his mistress by scotching suggestions that the Foreign Secretary would be taking his live-in lover, Mrs Regan, with him when he went to the White House on Thursday.
The Foreign Office later ruled out the possibility that Mrs Regan, who is now sharing the Foreign Secretary's official residence, would accompany Mr Cook on next week's tour of China and Hong Kong.
Officials said they could not find a precedent for a Cabinet minister taking his mistress on a diplomatic trip. There were occasions, said a Downing Street source, when a partner should accompany a minister abroad, particularly if there were social events to host. Mr Cook announced on Sunday that he planned to marry Mrs Regan after he had divorced his wife, Margaret.
The Downing Street spokesman said that when Mrs Regan travelled with Mr Cook, it was as the partner of the Foreign Secretary. "Robin Cook has made clear that he is estranged from his wife and regards Mrs Regan as his partner. It is not unusual for the spouse or partner of a minister to go on official visits of that sort."Reuse content