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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2005, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Pundit defends Cook funeral jibe
John McCririck with Robin Cook's agent, Jim Devine

Racing pundit John McCririck has defended his attack on Tony Blair during his tribute at the funeral of former foreign secretary Robin Cook.

Mr McCririck had criticised the prime minister's non-attendance at the funeral, saying it was a "moral failure" and showed vindictiveness.

Cabinet minister Peter Hain said he thought the attack was very out of place and resented by other mourners.

But Mr McCririck told the BBC "it needed to be said".

'No regrets'

He said he "certainly did not" regret his words and would do the same again "with reservations".

But he conceded the funeral might not have been the right time to have made his remarks.

"That is my only concern, not about what was said, it needed to be said, and you can certainly argue it should not have been made then."

Had there been a funeral for President Bush or President Chirac do you mean to say Tony Blair would not have attended?
John McCririck

He continued: "Do you mean to say if Tony Blair was up for election in six months time he wouldn't have been there?...

"Now nobody resents the prime minister taking a holiday. My goodness the man deserves it.

"But if he can't come back to Robin Cook's funeral, a man to whom he owes so much despite their differences on Iraq, I ask you, had there been a funeral for President Bush or President Chirac do you mean to say Tony Blair would not have attended? It is inconceivable.

One member of the family, very close, said it needed to be said, thank you very much
John McCririck

"... Not being there... demonstrated that the prime minister has got his pettiness, that he holds this vendetta against Robin which you know is so unfair."

Mr McCririck admitted the family had not known he intended to criticise the prime minister, but said at least one relative had supported his comments afterwards.

Chancellor's eulogy

Chancellor Gordon Brown gave a eulogy to Mr Cook, who resigned as Commons leader over the Iraq war, at the service at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

John Prescott, Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Mr Hain were among other Cabinet ministers at the service, as were Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and SNP leader Alex Salmond.

A wave of resentment swept through the cathedral
Peter Hain on John McCririck's criticisms

Other ministers have said Mr Cook remained on good terms with the prime minister despite his resignation .

Outside the cathedral, Mr Hain said a "wave of resentment swept through the cathedral" at Mr McCririck's comments.

The remarks were "totally uncalled for" and were "out of tune" with the mood of the ceremony, Mr Hain said, adding: "I do think most of the mourners share that view."

In his eulogy, Mr Brown saluted his former Cabinet colleague as the "most accomplished parliamentarian of his generation".

Mr Cook's son Chris reminded the mourners of his father's commitment to Parliament.

He read a passage from his father's memoir about the need for Parliament to modernise.




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