Friday, January 13, 2012

Frank Cook

I was sorry to hear of the death of Frank Cook. He was the Labour MP for Stockton from 1983 to 2010. Although I had met him briefly beforehand, I came to know him well once I was myself elected to the Commons in 1987. He could regularly be found undertaking his Constituency work in the Commons Library and it was there in my first week in the Commons that he introduced me to the mysteries of "Early Day Motions", showing me how MPs could use them as a campaigning device. It was a lesson which I never forgot.

Although he had a clear sense of humour, he was a seriously minded politician. We invariably discussed issues when our path's crossed. I had at one time worked as a railway clerk at Stockton and originated from the North East, so what was happening in his area interested me. He regularly contributed to debates in the Commons and was an MP worth listening to.

During the parliamentary expenses scandal he was dealt with really badly by the media. On a slow news day on a Sunday, news programmes led with the story that he had tried to reclaim £5 which he had reimbursed to an assistant who had donated the amount during a service at Stockton Parish Church. Yet it was a non-story as the Fees Office had rejected his claim and Frank clearly explained how the claim had all been a mistake. That ever since the matter has been used by some to blacken Frank's character is a terrible shame.

I prefer to remember him as a dedicated MP who delivered on behalf of his constituents and worked well and hard on wider issues, developing a specific expertise on defence matters.

Both Stockton and the Commons were better places from his 27 years as an MP and that is how he should be remembered.

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