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Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, died in hospital last night after collapsing while walking in the Scottish hills he loved.

The 59-year-old MP was airlifted to hospital in Inverness yesterday afternoon after being taken ill while walking with his wife, Gaynor, and friends near the summit of Ben Stack, close to Lochinver, Sutherland.

There were unconfirmed reports last night that he suffered a heart attack and then fell, breaking his neck.[...]
Cook, who also leaves two sons, Christopher and Peter, was a dominant intellectual force in New Labour. He sealed his reputation for political integrity with his resignation from the cabinet on the eve of the Iraq war.

His death last night left colleagues in shock, eliciting tributes from across the political spectrum to the man whom John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, described as 'the greatest parliamentarian of his generation'.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was also quick to pay tribute. 'Robin was an outstanding, extraordinary talent - brilliant, incisive in debate, of incredible skill and persuasive power,' he said.

'His contribution to the politics of Britain was hugely significant. His contribution to the Labour Party was immense. He will be missed and mourned by all of us.'[...]Last night, friends of Cook said his demise had left a huge gap in British politics. 'His death leaves a gaping hole in the leadership of the Labour movement.' said Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

'He was a socialist and an internationalist of principle and we are all left poorer by his passing,'.

Former deputy Labour leader Roy Hattersley said Cook's death would be felt keenly in the House of Commons.

'I don't think there has been any parliamentarian of my time who has made more significant speeches,' Hattersley said.

Robin Cook dies after collapse on mountain
Tributes pour in for Robin Cook

What affect will this passing have on British Politics? The World at large?
Little, if any, at either level. Robin Cook, though widely respected, wasn't widely popular in the country, with a general image as something of an oddball.

What popularity he did have largely arose from his resignation over the Iraq War, demonstrating that he was at least in step with the majority of the population, than over anything he'd ever done while in office.

I think he might well have returned to the government benches after the next election, assuming that Labour won it under Gordon Brown's leadership.
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