Robert Finlayson Cook, almost always referred to by the nickname Robin, (born February 28, 1946) is a British Labour Party politician, who was Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2001. He resigned from his post as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council on March 17, 2003 as a protest over the Iraq crisis.
The son of a schoolteacher, Cook became MP for Edinburgh Central in 1974, and has represented Livingston since 1983. He became known as a brilliant parliamentary debater, and rose through the party ranks, reaching the Shadow Cabinet in 1987. In 1994 he ruled himself out of contention for the Labour leadership, apparently on the grounds that he is insufficiently attractive to be an election winner. He is believed to have craved the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that job was promised by Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, so he became Shadow Foreign Secretary.
With the election of a Labour government at the 1997 general election, Cook became Foreign Secretary. He announced, to much scepticism, his intention to add "an ethical dimension" to foreign policy. Unfortunately for Cook, his own personal morals were soon in the headlines: when his affair with his secretary was revealed by a newspaper, he told his wife Margaret Cook he was leaving her at Heathrow airport on the way to a holiday. She later wrote a book recounting his many affairs and accusing him of having a drinking problem. A highly experienced hospital haematologist, she also became a prominent critic of the government's health policy.
His term as Foreign Secretary was marked by British interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. The latter proved particularly contoversial, with allegations that a British company had supplied arms to supporters of the deposed president in contravention of a United Nations embargo. Cook was also embarrassed when his apparent offer to mediate in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was rebuffed. The "ethical dimension" of his policies was subject to inevitable scrutiny, leading to criticism at times.
After the 2001 general election he was moved from the Foreign Office to be Leader of the House of Commons. This was widely seen as a demotion, but Cook welcomed the chance to spend more time on his favourite stage. As Leader of the House he was responsible for reforming the hours and practices of the House.
In early 2003 he was reported to be one of the cabinet's chief opponents of miltary action against Iraq, and on March 17 he resigned from the cabinet. In a statement giving his reasons for resigning he said, "I can't accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support." He also praised Blair's "heroic efforts" in pushing for the so-called second resolution regarding the Iraq disarmament crisis. Cook's resignation statement in the House of Commons, received with an unprecedented standing ovation by fellow MPs, was described by the BBC's Andrew Marr as "without doubt one of the most effective, brilliant, resignation speeches in modern British politics" and "by far a better speech than he has made at any time in government".
He is a keen follower of horse racing and has worked as a racing tipster in his spare time.