He was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire. He was the son of Howard Browning Coote of Stukeley Hall, later Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire, and Jean née Reith of Aberdeen. He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1914. On the outbreak of war he obtained a commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment. 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.
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 parties, was also nominated by the local Conservative and Unionist Association. Accordingly, he was elected unopposed to the Commons on 14 December 1917.
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 returned as MP for the Isle, again unopposed.
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.
While 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. His period in Italy saw him covering the rise of the fascists under Benito Mussolini. Returning to Britain in 1926, he spent three years as a parliamentary reporter before becoming a leader writer.
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. He finally left The Times in 1942 on the resignation of Geoffrey Dawson as editor, and took up a post with the Daily Telegraph. he became deputy editor of the Telegraph in 1945, and succeeded Arthur Watson as editor in 1950. He held the post until 1964, with his Liberal tendencies balancing the otherwise Conservative views of the paper. He was knighted in 1962.
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 Denis Dethoor, of Doulieu, France. She died in 1945, and he married Amalie Lewkowitz, of Amsterdam in the following year.
- "Obituary: Sir Colin Coote - Politics from the editor's chair". The Times. 23 November 1979. p. VI.
- "Coote, Sir Colin Reith (1893–1979)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
- "General Election, 1918- Unopposed Returns.". The Times. 5 December 1918. p. 14.
- "The Wisbech Vacancy". The Times. 8 December 1917. p. 5.
- The London Gazette: . 16 February 1962.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Colin Coote
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Wisbech
1917 – 1918
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Isle of Ely
1918 – 1922
|Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph
|Editor of The Daily Telegraph