Former long-serving BBC political editor John Cole has died aged 85 after a long illness, his son Michael said on Friday.
Cole, whose strong Ulster accent was even copied in a Spitting Image puppet, had a long career in newspapers before joining the BBC.
“The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the news and would send his condolences, of course, to Mr Cole’s family and friends,” David Cameron’s official spokesman said.
“He is someone who contributed so much to British political life.”
During ten years from 1981 as head of the BBC’s political coverage, major stories he covered included the Falklands War, the Brighton bomb and the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Cole was born in Belfast in 1927 and started his career on the Belfast Telegraph in 1945 before moving to The Guardian, The Observer and then the BBC.
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.
The veteran journalist died at his home in Surrey on Thursday and is survived by his wife Madge, four sons – Donald, Patrick, David and Michael – and nine grandchildren.
The family said in a statement: “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.”
Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust and former Cabinet minister, 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.”