The edge - Amanda Platell

Cook was funny and smart, and adored his wife. That's pretty damned attractive in any man

Robin Cook and I were unlikely professional bedfellows. Whenever I professed my affection and admiration for him - as I did regularly - it would draw incredulous laughter. What would a righty like me see in a lefty like him, or vice versa? As the tributes after Robin's death have demonstrated, there are cross-party affections, and none more than mine for him.

It all began on a train to Hull in the winter of 2002, as I recall. He was leader of the House of Commons and we were heading up to do Question Time, not long after he'd featured on Desert Island Discs. He was, like most lefties, extremely cautious of me, not least because I had occasionally written less than kind things about him, and had the previous year departed the post of press secretary to William Hague. There were grounds for suspicion. I complimented him on his performance on Desert Island Discs, especially for the absence of malice towards his ex-wife.

Robin had nothing but kind words to say about Margaret. When talking about Gaynor, he was almost bashful. He clearly adored her. For the first time, I saw a glimpse of the man who would dress up in black tie and waltz his new wife around the great rooms of Chevening. Then, seated at the bicentenary dinner for the Press Gallery in May 2003, I felt a tug at my elbow and looked around, and there was Robin, squatting in his DJ at my side. It was two months since his resignation, but all he wanted to talk about was Gaynor. I had written something kind about her, no more than a few paragraphs. You would have thought it was an essay.

He told me what Alastair Campbell always says, that he was not presented with a wife v mistress ultimatum at Heathrow Airport. He knew he had to choose, and he chose love.

The last time I saw Robin was a few months ago when he did Morgan and Platell, and I have never seen him so relaxed or happy. He chatted on about Gaynor and plans for their summer. You could see then what he had already said was true - that she had changed him, made him more at ease in his own skin. Gaynor was, Robin said, "a total support" to him. She had taught him "emotional intelligence", to be considerate of others.

So when people laughed and said, "What on earth do you see in Robin Cook?" I would always answer that apart from being funny, sweet and smart, he adored his wife, and that's pretty damned attractive in any man. Many have remarked that if Robin had to die anywhere, near the top of Ben Stack was as good as it gets. I would have thought that if he had to die any way, suddenly and in the arms of the woman he loved was as sweet as it gets.

With all the subtlety of Norman Tebbit's cricket test for immigrant loyalty, the government's latest idea for turning angry young Muslim men who would blow us up into exemplary citizens is to rename them "Asian-British". We may dismiss this as just another daft idea from a desperate government, but the reality is that it would create more alienation. Not for one moment has Hazel Blears, Minister for Daft Ideas, suggested that white immigrant groups should be similarly renamed American-British, French-British or, heaven forbid, Australian-British.

The next thing you know, she'll be demanding we Aussies support England in the Ashes!

And on "the edge" of reality, my commendation for the week goes to the BBC weatherman John "Stroker" Hammond. Yes,

yes, I know I don't do Media any more, but that doesn't stop me

watching television. Not since gorgeous girls fondled white

goods on Sixties TV game shows have I seen anyone lavish such

loving attention on a prop.

Overheard at the Proms: Michael Cockerell, the fabulous film-maker, asking a Conservative whether the Tories were in terminal decline. No, came the reply, more like a patient who's been diagnosed with bowel cancer, but after the period when there's a 50:50 chance of survival. There is hope, but not as we know it.

Despite Bill Clinton's offer to campaign for Cherie Booth were she to pursue a career in politics, she insists that being the wife of a politician has "exhausted" her ambitions. Not half as much as it has exhausted us, Cherie.

This article first appeared in the 15 August 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Robin Cook: a tribute