I don’t know about you, but I have a thing for checking the obituary pages of news websites on a daily basis, generally out of curiosity but also with a note of anxiety – it seems to be looking for trouble. While I will of course want to know immediately if someone important (or important to me) has died, I dread actually reading the words. As it happens, today I didn’t have to go to the obituaries for the sad news of two deaths, as they were headline news. The first is Robin Cook, one of the few modern Labour MPs (and MPs full stop) who could rightly claim to be a man of principle and integrity. I mean, Tony Blair uses every possible opportunity to persuade everyone that he has those qualities in abundance, but there’s a vast difference between doing that and actually having them. Blair, being a lawyer by profession, could defend the indefensible, including (seemingly endlessly) his own right to continue as prime minister, but Cook by contrast was the highly respected cabinet politician who took the rare step of actually resigning from the government over its insane determination to take the UK to war in Iraq. The Guardian/Observer website today publishes an extract from his amazing resignation speech, one of the very, very few truly memorable and moving Commons moments in recent memory.
The second sad “celebrity” death today was that of Ibrahim Ferrer, the great Buena Vista Social Club singer. Admittedly he was 78, but I still mourn the decline (with some Thunderbird wine) of that beautiful voice.