Entertainment & Arts

Broadcaster John Cole dies aged 85

Former BBC political editor John Cole has died aged 85.

Cole was the BBC's chief reporter during the Thatcher era, and covered major stories including the miners' strike and the Brighton bombing.

"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," his family said.

Cole, who retired in 1992, died in his sleep at home in Surrey.

He was surrounded by his family, who said: "We will miss him terribly."

He is survived by his wife Madge, four sons - Donald, Patrick, David and Michael - and nine grandchildren, who acknowledged the "many memories of the tremendous happiness he has brought into our lives".

Born in Belfast in 1927, he began his writing career at the local Belfast Telegraph at the age of just 17.

He went on to work at both the Guardian and the Observer, before succeeding John Simpson to the role of political editor at the BBC in 1981.

Current BBC political editor Nick Robinson tweeted: "Sad news. 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."

The BBC's Mark Simpson called him "a journalistic legend".

'Extraordinary era'

With his incisive interview style and distinctive accent, Cole was immortalised by a Spitting Image puppet, cementing his status as a household name.

Cole was given a memorable puppet makeover in ITV's satirical Spitting Image show

He was presented with the Royal Television Society's Journalist of the Year award in 1991 and Bafta's Richard Dimbleby Award in 1993.

Following mandatory retirement after the 1992 general election - having reached the age of 65 - he continued to work at the corporation on a freelance basis for many years.

He also wrote a collection of political memoirs entitled As It Seemed To Me, and a novel, A Clouded Peace.

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said he had covered "an extraordinary era".

"He was somebody who really brought it to life and who really knew what was going on behind the scenes," she told BBC News.

"He was a hard-working journalist... always there at the right place and the right time."

A spokesman for David Cameron said the prime minister was "deeply saddened by the news and sends his condolences to Mr Cole's family", adding that he had "contributed so much to British political life".

Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted that he "grew up watching John Cole".

"He conveyed the drama and importance of politics," he added. "Many condolences to his family."

The BBC's head of news, James Harding, said: "John was a loved and respected broadcaster, a journalist with his own unforgettable style and a commanding knowledge of his subject.

"He embodied the qualities of a truly great journalist: integrity, curiosity and character. He will, I know, be sorely missed and fondly remembered across the BBC."

He added: "Our thoughts are with his family".

Fellow journalist David Aaronovitch tweeted: "Farewell John Cole. I worked with him for several years at the BBC and he was a lovely, wise (though engagingly irascible) man."

The former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine said Cole's success involved a "great deal of charm".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, he said: "John became a national character. I think the accent was a great help, didn't do him any harm at all, everybody knew who he was.

"I look back with great fondness to my relationship with him."

More on this story