About five years ago, when Robin Cook was shadow health secretary, I was in London for the day. Leaving Holborn tube station, almost empty at the time, I was behind a young blind woman with a guide dog. They stopped at the foot of the escalator, unable to step on to it together. I wanted to help but couldn't think what to do. Behind me was a small man carrying a very large briefcase. He stepped forward, picked up the dog, which looked almost as large as him, took the young woman by the arm and, still carrying the briefcase, escorted her to the top of the escalator, where he put down the dog, saw that the young woman was all right and hurried on. I realised he was, unmistakably, Robin Cook. I believe I was the only witness to this act of kindness. What impressed me most of all was his sheer competence.
Do we need Robin Cook? Very much so, not as foreign secretary, but as prime minister. He would have led Labour to victory months or years ago. He is no oil painting, but neither was Wilson or Attlee.
Your commentary on Mr Cook was quite interesting but irrelevant. My limited knowledge of politics suggests that, when in opposition, there is no need to form concrete stances on issues that may not be of immediate serious consequence to the country.
Unfortunately Mr Cook is in a job where his worth will always be underestimated and in many cases unnoticed. Apart from Europe, there has barely been a serious policy challenge in foreign affairs. This is not Mr Cook's fault. Western policy has shifted the importance attached to foreign matters now that the Soviet Union has collapsed and there is no serious threat to world peace. If there have been any lapses by Mr Cook in his present position, they can be overlooked in the safe knowledge that they are unimportant.
Mr Cook has served in several top jobs in the shadow cabinet and has proved himself quite well. Your writer seems to have forgotten the brilliant way he exploited the Government's health record when he was health spokesman and how effectively he neutralised Mr Heseltine in the Trade and Industry department.
Yes, we need the brilliant Mr Cook. If, as I hope, Labour one day win power, I am absolutely confident that Robin Cook will do a lot more than "bluster". I don't need the spiteful Steve Crawshaw: does he look like Mr Darcy?
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies