David Cameron leads tributes after death of former BBC political editor John Cole
Former BBC Political Editor John Cole has died aged 85 after a long illness.
The Irish broadcaster, whose distinctive Ulster accent made him a regular subject for satirists, spent more than 10 years with the BBC after a lengthy career in newspapers.
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, but have so many memories of the tremendous happiness he has brought into our lives."
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."
He died at his Surrey home yesterday and is survived by his wife Madge, four sons - Donald, Patrick, David and Michael - and nine grandchildren.
As the face of the BBC's political coverage during the Thatcher years, he covered major stories including the Falklands War, the Brighton bomb and Mrs Thatcher's resignation.
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 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."
Former Cabinet minister and chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten said: "John Cole was a hugely respected BBC political editor, whose absolute integrity and astute analysis, to say nothing of his distinctive delivery, defined political reporting in the Eighties. My thoughts are with his family."