Cook funeral hears Blair's 'moral failure' criticised
Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was today described as "the greatest parliamentarian of our time" as politicians, family and friends gathered for his funeral.
Chancellor Gordon Brown praised the Scottish MP of more than three decades for his work fighting poverty, injustice and unfairness. Mr Brown said the 59-year-old's passing had left a gap that could never properly be filled, adding: "I believe it could be said of all of us that we did not value Robin enough in life".
The Chancellor made the moving tribute to Mr Cook during his eulogy at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. Mr Cook died suddenly on Saturday while walking near the summit of Ben Stack in the Scottish Highlands. A post-mortem examination later established that he died of hypertensive heart disease.
Among the hundreds of mourners at the service were Mr Cook's two sons Peter and Christopher and his wife Gaynor - who was with him when he died. Also in attendance were Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and SNP leader Alex Salmond.
Prime Minister Tony Blair did not attend the funeral as he is on holiday with his family in the Caribbean.
Racing pundit John McCririck told mourners: "Margaret Thatcher - of course she attended Ted Heath's service.
"I believe the Prime Minister's snub to Robin's family to millions of new Labour voters demonstrates a petty vindictiveness and moral failure, opting to continue snorkelling instead of doing his duty. What a contrast with Lady Thatcher."
McCririck went on to pay heartfelt tribute to Mr Cook. "On the TV and radio, he probably came across as dour, pedantic," he said. "To those of us who knew him, he was fun, he was a pal, he was a chum.
"I'm slightly on the right on politics, and Robin was wrong on every single issue - Europe, devolution, socialism, our overweening welfare state, PR, Iraq.
"But to argue with him was so stimulating and mentally challenging."
The funeral was one of the biggest gatherings of the political clans this year in the UK. More than half the cabinet were there, including John Prescott, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, John Reid, David Blunkett.
Former Labour leaders Michael Foot and Lord Kinnock and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer were also present. The Irish Labour Party was represented by former leader Ruairí Quinn.
Mr Cook's first wife Margaret arrived almost unnoticed, more than an hour early. With her partner Robin Howie she glanced at the floral tributes at the cathedral door, then went inside.
Mr Cook's widow Gaynor arrived moments before the service began at 11am, with Mr Cook's sons Peter and Christopher.