Former BBC political editor John Cole dies aged 85

John Cole, the BBC’s former political editor has died, his family has announced.

The Ulster man was the BBC’s political editor during most of Margaret Thatcher’s time in Downing Street working on almost all major stories during that era.

He died following a long illness.

Cole, reporting following the Conservative Party’s attempt to oust Thatcher in 1990, said she had been “gravely damaged” after she failed to win the first leadership vote by the necessary margin.

He covered the miners’ strike as well as the Brighton bombing.

His strong Irish accent was much parodied, particularly on Spitting Image.

His family said: "While many people will remember John for his journalism and broadcasting, for us he was the most loving, funny and devoted husband, father and grandfather.

"We will miss him terribly."

Guto Hari, director of communications at News UK said: “I worked under John at Millbank shortly before he retired. He was such a good man. He was an inspiration.”

Cole, who retired from the BBC in 1992, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Surrey. He was surrounded by his family.

He is survived by his wife Madge, four sons – Donald, Patrick, David and Michael – and nine grandchildren, 

BBC obituary.

David Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the news and would send his condolences, of course, to Mr Cole's family and friends.

"He is someone who contributed so much to British political life."

Cole was born in Belfast in 1927 and started his career on the Belfast Telegraph in 1945 before joining The Guardian, where he worked as labour correspondent, news editor and eventually deputy editor. In 1975 he joined The Observer before moving to the BBC in 1981.

He retired after the 1992 general election and wrote his memoirs, As It Seemed To Me, and a novel set in his native Northern Ireland.

In his memoirs, Cole recounted how an interview early in his career with then prime minister Clement Attlee during a holiday in Ireland inspired him to to work in Westminster. He went on to interview many of Westminster's biggest names and was a regular fixture outside Downing Street in the 1980s.

The BBC's current political editor Nick Robinson said Cole's death was "sad news". Writing on Twitter, he said: "The man I learnt so much from, the BBC's former political editor John Cole, has died. He shaped the way all in my trade do our jobs."

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