1. ITV Report

Tributes pour in to political 'titan' John Cole

Current BBC political editor Nick Robinson said John Cole "shaped the way all in my trade do our jobs". Photo: PA Archive

The Prime Minister has led tributes from politicians and broadcasters to former BBC political editor John Cole, who has passed away at the age of 85 after a long illness.

David Cameron said he was "saddened" by the death of the distinctive Ulsterman who had "contributed so much to British political life", while Labour leader Ed Miliband said his generation "grew up watching John Cole".

Mr Cole held the influential BBC post from 1981 to 1992 and was celebrated for his impartial approach.

He died in his sleep yesterday at his home in Surrey, surrounded by his wife and family.

Former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown both hailed Mr Cole as a titan of his profession.

John Cole was one of the finest political correspondents of my lifetime, and a real credit to his profession. When John spoke, everyone listened.

He was always well-informed, balanced - and trustworthy - and set the bar very high for all who followed.

Mr Brown said the broadcaster was a "soft-spoken giant of journalism", adding:

(His) friendly manner and unimpeachable integrity allowed him to ask the difficult questions that got to the heart of an issue.

Respected by all, he leaves a great legacy of writing and commentating which will serve the test of time.

The BBC's Director-General Tony Hall said Mr Cole established enormous popularity and influence and became a "national institution".

"Everybody wanted to know what John Cole thought about what was happening in the world of politics. He took us through an extraordinary period of the Thatcher government. ... People loved him and wanted to hear what he had to say."

John Cole handed over the microphone to Robin Oakley in 1992 after more than a decade as the BBC's leading political pundit. Credit: PA Archive

Former ITN Political Editor Michael Brunson has said he was in "awe" of his "fierce rival" during their years reporting from Westminster in the 1980s.

He explained how Mr Cole, who had begun his career in newspapers, was able to gain such good access to the corridors of power:

Mr Cole is survived by his wife Madge, four sons - Donald, Patrick, David and Michael - and nine grandchildren.

In a statement, 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.