Robin Cook and I were both elected to the House on the same day - February 28th 1974 - and although on opposite sides, we were friends. My thoughts are with his family following his tragically early death.
His talents were quickly recognised by Harold Wilson who invited him to open the debate on the Queens Speech in 1974 - a job traditionally assigned to a highflyer. However, Jim Callaghan didn't ask him to join his Government later in the Parliament and it wasn't until the Labour Party was in Opposition that we felt the lash of his tongue in debate. He was quick on his feet, good at repartee and phenomenally well-briefed on his subject. He was courteous to his opponents if they knew what they were talking about - but devastating if they made a point in ignorance. His performances were rewarded by his colleagues consistently voting him on to the Shadow Cabinet - often top of the poll.
The only time the John Major government was defeated in a vote on the floor of the House was on an amendment to the Care in the Community legislation - proposed by Robin.
I got to know him best when he was Leader of the House and afterwards, when we worked together on parliamentary reform. He liked the House of Commons and, when in office, proposed measures which would have restored some powers to the House and made life more difficult for the Government. He was let down when the issues came to a vote, and his fellow Ministers voted down the measure he had spoken in favour of. He must have felt desperately let down by his colleagues.
He was well-organised - you rarely saw him flustered, lost for words or running. He was hoping to get back into Government, and spoke regularly in the House when he left office.
Along with William Hague, I rate him as the finest debater in the House - and we will all miss him.