Frank Dobson death: Former Labour health secretary dies aged 79

Bronwen Weatherby
PA

Frank Dobson, Tony Blair’s first health secretary, has died at the age of 79.

The Yorkshire-born politician resigned from the House of Commons four years ago, having served as Holborn and St Pancras MP for 36 years.

A family spokesman confirmed the former cabinet minister had died on Monday following a “longstanding illness”.

"The Dobson family, is sad to announce the death of Frank Dobson, former MP for Holborn and St Pancras and secretary of state for health,” said the spokesman.

Frank Dobson with his wife Janet (R) and daughter Sally (L) after voting in 2000 (DENIS JONES)

“His family would like to thank all the staff at the Homerton University Hospital for their outstanding expertise, commitment and care in the last few months and also the staff of York Hospital for his previous excellent care.

“He also greatly appreciated the support of his many friends and former parliamentary colleagues.”

The former leader of Camden Council was Labour’s candidate at the mayoral election in 2000, having been persuaded to go for the newly-created job by Mr Blair.

Mr Dobson came third, losing out to then-Independent Ken Livingstone. Tory Steve Norris came second.

Mr Dobson entered the Commons the same year Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.

Following his unsuccessful bid for City Hall at the turn of the millennium, he returned to the backbenches and spoke out against a string of party policies including the Iraq War, top-up fees for students, the marketisation of parts of the NHS, and longer detention without charge for terror suspects.

Mr Dobson and Kier Starmer in the 2015 General Election (NIGEL HOWARD ©)

Following his decision to step down in 2015, the West Ham supporter said at the time: “It has been an honour to represent the people of Holborn and St Pancras for all these years and to have made at least some contribution to making it a better place to live.

“I am proud of the people I represent. They get on together and help one another.

“Outsiders who have tried to stir up divisions have always failed. Common sense and human decency have prevailed.

“It has been hard work keeping up with the needs and aspirations of local people and helping resolve their problems. My constituents have been slow to chide and swift to bless.”

MPs from across the political spectrum are paying tribute to the Labour veteran (PA Wire/PA Images)

He leaves behind his wife, Janet, and their three children.

Since the sad news, tributes from people from across the political divide have poured in.

"He also greatly appreciated the support of his many friends and former parliamentary colleagues."

Mr Dobson stood down at the 2015 general election after representing Holborn and St Pancras in London since 1979.

The then London Mayoral candidates Frank Dobson (right) and Ken Livingstone (PA Wire/PA Images)

Tributes from former and current MPs from across the political divise have already started to pour in for the Labour veteran.

Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair are among the senior figures to commemorate Mr Dobson as a friend and colleague.

Tony Blair, who promoted Mr Dobson to health secretary, called him a “politician of the highest calibre”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to Mr Dobson for his "great work" and his "great wit" and said he would "miss him".

In an interview in Blackpool, Mr Corbyn said: “He was passionate in representing his constituents and his people and he was brilliant as secretary of state for health in 1997.

“He was also a great raconteur, a great purveyor of stories, a great source of gossip around the House of Commons and a great wit in many ways and would always remember the good and the bad in just about everybody he met.

“As a parliamentary neighbour of mine we got on absolutely famously… we just got along extremely well.

“He’s one of these people that never lost his Yorkshire roots, very proud to be a London MP and very proud to speak out about our party and movement.

Yorkshire-born Mr Dobson with former Labour PM Tony Blair in 2000 (PA Wire/PA Images)

“I miss him, I thank him for what he did and my condolences to all his family.

Labour candidate David Lammy tweeted: “So sad to hear Frank Dobson has passed.

"Frank was my mentor for many years in my early years in politics and in so many ways an icon in London Labour and the wider movement.

"Rooted in the community he loved a curry, was v funny, kind and patient."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called Mr Dobson a "hero" in his tweet.

Tory Minister Sajid Javid expressed his condolences in a tweet writing: "Very sad news. RIP."

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, also paid tribute to Mr Dobson on Twitter.

He wrote: “Just heard the news that Frank Dobson has passed away.

“From one health secretary to another, thank you for your years of service and devotion to our health service.”

Labour and Co-operative politician, Stella Creasy posted on Instagram about the tragic news, writing: "Gutted the lovely Frank Dobson has passed away. He was so kind and supportive to all of us when we were first elected in 2010 as well as being passionate about the Labour Party and what it could do for Britain.

"[...]I know that’s how he’d want us to remember him as well as full of love for his family and this community. Farewell frank and thanks for all the advice and fun - you will be greatly missed!"

Catherine West, Labour candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, said on Twitter: “Condolences to the Dobson family, we’ve lost a wonderful former Secretary of State for Health and lifelong champion of the NHS.

“Campaigned for Labour in Hornsey in 2015. RIP Frank.”

Leader of the Camden Tories, Oliver Cooper paid tribute to Frank Dobson. He tweeted: “Very saddened to hear of the death of Frank Dobson. Whatever one’s politics, he rarely gave constituents in Camden reason to have a bad word to say about him as a constituency MP.”