Colin Coote

Sir Colin Reith Coote, DSO (19 October 1893 – 8 June 1979) was a British journalist and Liberal politician. For fourteen years he was the editor of The Daily Telegraph.[1]

Colin Coote

Member of Parliament
for Isle of Ely
In office
14 December 1918  15 November 1922
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byNorman Coates
Member of Parliament
for Wisbech
In office
14 December 1917  14 December 1918
Preceded byNeil Primrose
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born(1893-10-19)19 October 1893
Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England
Died8 June 1979(1979-06-08) (aged 85)
London, England
Political partyLiberal
Marguerite Doris Wellstead
(m. 1916; div. 1925)

Denise Dethoor
(m. 1925; died 1945)

Amalie Lewkowitz
(m. 1946)
EducationRugby School
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
UnitGloucestershire Regiment
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order


He was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire. He was the son of Howard Browning Coote of Stukeley Hall, later Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire, and Jean Coote (née Gray) of Aberdeen.[2] He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1914.[1][2][3] On the outbreak of the First World War, he obtained a commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment.[2] He served in France and Italy, and was forced to return to the United Kingdom, having been wounded and gassed. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918.[1]

In November 1917, the sitting Liberal Member of Parliament for Wisbech, Neil James Archibald Primrose, was killed in action. Coote was chosen as the Liberal candidate for the seat, and, due to a war-time pact between the two parties, was also nominated by the local Conservative and Unionist Association.[4] He was returned unopposed to the House of Commons on 14 December 1917.[1][2]

A general election was held in 1918. Constituencies were completely reorganised by the Representation of the People Act 1918, and the Wisbech seat became part of the new Isle of Ely division. Coote was elected as MP for the Isle of Ely, again unopposed.[2][3]

At the subsequent general election in 1922 his differences with the Conservatives saw them running a candidate against him. Coote, running as a National Liberal, was defeated by Colonel Norman Coates. With hindsight, Coote described his defeat as the "crowning mercy" of his career, as it allowed him to pursue journalism.[1]

Whilst a Member of Parliament, Coote had gained a reputation as a freelance writer. On leaving the Commons, he was appointed Rome correspondent of The Times.[1] His period in Italy saw him covering the rise of Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini.[1][2] Returning to the UK in 1926, he spent three years as a parliamentary reporter before becoming a leader writer.[1][2]

By the time of the Munich Crisis, Coote found himself opposed to the newspaper's support of appeasement, and refused to write leaders supporting the policy.[1][2] He finally left The Times in 1942 on the resignation of Geoffrey Dawson as editor, and took up a post with The Daily Telegraph.[1] He became deputy editor of the Telegraph in 1945, and succeeded Arthur Watson as editor in 1950.[1] He held the post until 1964, with his Liberal tendencies balancing the otherwise Conservative views of the paper.[1] In 1961, Coote introduced osteopath Stephen Ward to Soviet diplomat Eugene Ivanov, a meeting that would lead to the Profumo affair.[5] He was knighted in 1962.[1][2][6]

Coote died at his London home on 8 June 1979, aged 85.[1][2]


Coote married three times. In 1916, he married Marguerite Doris Wellstead, of Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire and they had two daughters before divorcing in 1925. He subsequently married Denise Dethoor, of Doulieu, France. She died in 1945, and he married Amalie Lewkowitz in the following year.[2]


Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs

  1. "Obituary: Sir Colin Coote - Politics from the editor's chair". The Times. 23 November 1979. p. VI.
  2. "Coote, Sir Colin Reith (1893–1979)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  3. "General Election, 1918- Unopposed Returns". The Times. 5 December 1918. p. 14.
  4. "The Wisbech Vacancy". The Times. 8 December 1917. p. 5.
  5. Honeytrap by Anthony Summers & Stephen Dorril, Coronet Books, 1987. P.108.)
  6. "No. 42599". The London Gazette. 16 February 1962. p. 1285.